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NOV 20 1916 



Educational leaders are becoming 
increasingly aware of the necessity for 
teaching students not only the subject- 
matter of study but also methods of study. 
Teachers are beginning to see that students 
waste a vast amount of time and form 
many harmful habits because they do not 
know how to use their minds. The 
recognition of this condition is taking the 
form of the movement toward " supervised 
study/' which attempts to acquaint the 
student with principles of economy and 
directness in using his mind. It is gener- 
ally agreed that there are certain " tricks" 
which make for mental efficiency, con- 
sisting of methods of apperceiving facts, 
methods of review, devices for arranging 
work. Some are the fruits of psychological 
experimentation; others are derived from 
experience. Many of them can be im- 
parted by instruction, and it is for the 



purpose of systematizing these and making 
them available for students that this book 
is prepared. 

The evils of unintelligent and unsuper- 
vised study are evident to all who have 
any connection with modern education. 
They pervade the entire educational struct- 
ure from kindergarten through college. 
In college they are especially apparent in 
the case of freshmen, who, in addition to 
the numerous difficulties incident to en- 
trance into the college world, suffer pecul- 
iarly because they do not know how to 
attack the difficult subjects of the curricu- 
lum. In recognition of these conditions, 
special attention is given at The University 
of Chicago toward supervision of study. 
All freshmen in the School of Commerce 
and Administration of the University are 
given a course in Methods of Study, in 
which practical discussions and demon- 
strations are given regarding the ways of 
studying the freshman subjects. In addi- 
tion to the group-work, cases presenting 


special features are given individual 
attention, for it must be admitted that 
while certain difficulties are common to 
all students, there are individual cases that 
present peculiar phases and these can be 
served only by personal consultations. 
These personal consultations are expensive 
both in time and patience, for it frequently 
happens that the mental habits of a student 
must be thoroughly reconstructed, and 
this requires much time and attention, but 
the results well repay the effort. A valu- 
able accessory to such individual super- 
vision over students has been found in the 
use of psychological tests which have been 
described by the author in a monograph 
entitled, "The Scientific Study of the 
College Student/'* 

But the college is not the most strategic 
point at which to administer guidance in 
methods of study. Such training is even 
more acceptably given in the high school 
and grades. Here habits of mental appli- 

* Princeton University Press. 


cation are largely set, and it is of the ut- 
most importance that they be set right, 
for the sake of the welfare of the individuals 
and of the institutions of higher education 
that receive them later. Another reason 
for incorporating training in methods of 
study into secondary and primary schools 
is that more individuals will be helped, 
inasmuch as the eliminative process has not 
yet reached its culmination. 

In high schools where systematic super- 
vision of study is a feature, classes are 
usually conducted in Methods of Study, 
and it is hoped that this book will meet 
the demand for a text-book for such 
classes, the material being well within the 
reach of high school students. In high 
schools where instruction in Methods of 
Study is given as part of a course in 
elementary psychology, the book should 
also prove useful, inasmuch as it gives a 
summary of psychological principles re- 
lating to the cognitive processes. 

In the grades the book cannot be put 


into the hands of the pupils, but it should 
be mastered by the teacher and applied in 
her supervising and teaching activities. 
Other books valuable for teachers who 
desire systematically to supervise study in 
high schools and grades respectively are 
" Psychology of High School Subjects," by 
Judd, and "Psychology of the Common 
Branches/ ' by Freeman. 

There is another group of students who 
need training in methods of study. Brain 
workers in business and industry feel 
deeply the need of greater mental efficiency 
and seek eagerly for means to attain it. 
Their earnestness in this search is evi- 
denced by the success of various systems 
for the training of memory, will, and other 
mental traits. Further evidence is found 
in the efforts of many corporations to main- 
tain schools and classes for the intellectual 
improvement of their employees. To all 
such the author offers the work with the 
hope that it may be useful in directing 
them toward greater mental efficiency. 


In courses in Methods of Study in 
which the book is used as a class-text, the 
instructor should lay emphasis not upon 
memorization of the facts in the book, but 
upon the application of them in study. He 
should expect to see parallel with progress 
through the book, improvement in the 
mental ability of the students. Specific 
problems "may well be arranged on the 
basis of the subjects of the curriculum, and 
students should be urged to utilize the 
suggestions immediately. The subjects 
treated in the book are those which the 
author has found in his experience with 
college students to constitute the most 
frequent sources of difficulty, and under 
these conditions, the sequence of topics 
followed in the book has seemed most 
favorable for presentation. With other 
groups of students, however, another se- 
quence of topics may be found desirable, 
and in such cases the book may be adapted. 
For example, in case the chapter on brain 
action is found to presuppose more physio- 


logical knowledge than that possessed by 
the students, it may be omitted or may 
be used merely for reference when enlight- 
enment is desired upon some of the 
physiological descriptions in later chapters. 
Likewise, the chapter dealing with intel- 
lectual difficulties of college students may 
be omitted with non-collegiate groups. 

The heavy obligation of the author to a 
number of writers will be apparent to one 
familiar with the literature of theoretical 
and educational psychology. No attempt 
is made to render specific acknowledg- 
ments, but a bibliography appended gives 
a list of the books most frequently con- 
sulted in the preparation of the work. 
Special mention might be made of the 
large draughts made upon the two books 
by Professor Stiles which treat so helpfully 
of the bodily relations of the student. 
These books contain so much good sense 
and scientific information that they should 
receive a prominent place among the books 
recommended to students. Thanks are 


due to Professor Edgar James Swift and 
Charles Scribner's Sons for permission to 
use a figure from "Mind in the Making"; 
and to J. B. Lippincott Company for adap- 
tation of cuts from Villiger's "Brain and 
Spinal Cord." 

The author gratefully acknowledges 
helpful suggestions from Professors James 
R. Angell, Charles H. Judd and C. Judson 
Herrick, who have read the greater part of 
the manuscript and have commented upon 
it to its betterment. The obligation refers, 
however, not only to the immediate prep- 
aration of this work but also to the encour- 
agement which, for several years, the 
author has received from these scientists, 
first as student, later as colleague. Much 
credit is due to Mr. Frank M.Webster and 
Mr. Karl D. McMahon for assistance in 
clarity of expression. 

The Author. 

September 25, 1916. 



I. Intellectual Problems of the College 

Freshman 13 

II. Note-taking 22 

III. Brain Action During Study 39 

IV. Formation of Study-habits 53 

V. First Aids to Memory 71 

VI. Concentration of Attention 102 

VII. How We Reason 118 

VIII. Expression as an Aid in Learning 138 

IX. The Plateau of Despond 154 

X. Mental Second- wind 166 

XI. Examinations 183 

XII. Bodily Conditions for Effective Study 195 

Bibliography 216 




In entering upon a college course you 
are taking a step that may completely 
revolutionize your life. You are facing 
new situations vastly different from any 
you have previously met. They are also 
of great variety, such as finding a place to 
eat and sleep, regulating your own finances, 
inaugurating a new social life, forming new 
friendships, and developing in body and 
mind. The problems connected with men- 
tal development will engage your chief 
attention. You are now going to use your 
mind more actively than ever before and 
should survey some of the intellectual 
difficulties before plunging into the fight. 



Perhaps the first difficulty you will 
encounter is the substitution of the lecture 
for the class recitation to which you were 
accustomed in high school. This substi- 
tution requires that you develop a new 
technic of learning, for the mental processes 
involved in an oral recitation are different 
from those used in listening to a lecture. 
The lecture system implies that the lecturer 
has a fund of knowledge about a certain 
field and has organized this knowledge in 
a form that is not duplicated in the litera- 
ture of the subject. The manner of pres- 
entation, then, is unique and is the only 
means of securing the knowledge in just 
that form. As soon as the words have 
left the mouth of the lecturer they cease 
to be accessible to you. Such conditions 
require a unique mental attitude and 
unique mental habits. You will be obliged, 
in the first place, to maintain sustained 
attention over long periods of time. The 
situation is not like that in reading, in 
which a temporary lapse of attention may 


be remedied by turning back and rereading. 
In listening to a lecture, you are obliged to 
catch the words " on the fly." Accordingly 
you must develop new habits of paying 
attention. You will also need to develop a 
new technic for memorizing, especially for 
memorizing things heard. As a partial 
aid in this, and also for purposes of organ- 
izing material received in lectures, you will 
need to develop ability to take notes. 
This is a process with which you have 
heretofore had little to do. It is a most 
important phase of college life, however, 
and will repay earnest study. 

Another characteristic of college study 
is the vast amount of reading required. 
Instead of using a single text-book for 
each course, you may use several. They 
may cover great historical periods and 
represent the ideas of many men. In view 
of the amount of reading assigned, you 
will also be obliged to learn to read faster. 
No longer will you have time to dawdle 
sleepily through the pages of easy texts; 


you will have to cover perhaps fifty or a 
hundred pages of knotty reading every 
day. Accordingly you must learn to 
handle books expeditiously and to com- 
prehend quickly. In fact, economy must 
be your watchword throughout. A German 
lesson in high school may cover thirty or 
forty lines a day, requiring an hour's 
preparation. A German assignment in 
college, however, may cover four or five 
or a dozen pages, requiring hard work for 
two or three hours. 

You should be warned also that college 
demands not only a greater quantity but 
also a higher quality of work. When you 
were a high school student the world 
expected only a high school student's 
accomplishments of you. Now you are 
a college student, however, and your in- 
tellectual responsibilities have increased. 
The world regards you now as a person 
of considerable scholastic attainment and 
expects more of you than before. In aca- 
demic terms this means that in order 


to attain a grade of 95 in college you 
will have to work much harder than you 
did for that grade in high school, for here 
you have not only more difficult subject- 
matter, but also keener competition for 
the first place. In high school you may 
have been the brightest student in your 
class. In college, however, you encounter 
the brightest students from many schools. 
If your merits are going to stand out 
prominently, therefore, you must work 
much harder. Your work from now on 
must be of better quality. 

Not the least of the perplexities of your 
life as a college student will arise from the 
fact that no daily schedule is arranged for 
you. The only time definitely assigned for 
your work is the fifteen hours a week, more 
or less, spent in the class-room. The rest 
of your schedule must be arranged by 
yourself. This is a real task and will 
require care and thought if your work is 
to be done with greatest economy of time 
and effort. 


This brief survey completes the cata- 
logue of problems of mental development 
that will vex you most in adjusting your 
methods of study to college conditions. 
In order to make this adjustment you will 
be obliged to form a number of new habits. 
Indeed, as you become more and more 
expert as a student, you will see that the 
whole process resolves itself into one of 
habit-formation, for while a college edu- 
cation has two phases — the acquisition of 
facts and the formation of habits — it is 
the latter which is the more important. 
Many of the facts that you learn will be 
forgotten; many will be outlawed by time; 
but the habits of study you form will be 
permanent possessions. They will consist 
of such things as methods of grasping facts, 
methods of reasoning about facts, and of 
concentrating attention. In acquiring 
these habits you must have some material 
upon which you may concentrate your 
attention, and it will be supplied by the 
subjects of the curriculum. You will be 


asked, for instance, to write innumerable 
themes in courses in English composition; 
not for the purpose of enriching the worlds 
literature, nor for the delectation of your 
English instructor, but for the sake of 
helping you to form habits of forceful 
expression. You will be asked to enter the 
laboratory and perform numerous experi- 
ments, not to discover hitherto unknown 
facts, but to obtain practice in scientific 
procedure and to learn how to seek knowl- 
edge by yourself. The curriculum and the 
faculty are the means, but you yourself 
are the agent in the educational process. 
No matter how good the curriculum or 
how renowned the faculty, you cannot be 
educated without the most vigorous efforts 
on your part. Banish the thought that 
you are here to have knowledge pumped 
into" you. To acquire an education you 
must establish and maintain not a passive 
attitude but an active attitude. When you 
go to the gymnasium to build up a good 
physique, the physical director does not 


tell you to hold yourself limp and passive 
while he pumps your arms and legs up and 
down. Rather he urges you to put forth 
effort, to exert yourself until you are tired. 
Only by so doing can you develop physical 
power. This principle holds true of mental 
development. Learning is not a process of 
passive "soaking-in." It is a matter of 
vigorous effort, and the harder you work 
the more powerful you become. In secur- 
ing a college education you are your own 

In the development of physical prowess 
you are well aware of the importance of 
doing everything in "good form." In 
such sports as swimming and hurdling, 
speed and grace depend primarily upon it. 
The same principle holds true in the 
development of the mind. The most 
serviceable mind is that which accom- 
plishes results in the shortest time and 
with least waste motion. Take every 
precaution, therefore, to rid yourself of 
all superfluous and impeding methods. 


Strive for the development of good form 
in study. Especially is this necessary at 
the start. Now is the time when you are 
laying the foundations for your mental 
achievements in college. Keep a sharp 
lookout, then, at every point, to see that 
you build into the foundation only those 
materials and that workmanship which 
will support a masterly structure. 


Most educated people find occasion, at 
some time or other, to take notes. Al- 
though this is especially true of college 
students, they have little success, as any 
college instructor will testify. Students, as 
a rule, do not realize that there is any skill 
involved in taking notes. Not until 
examination time arrives and they try 
vainly to labor through a maze of scrib- 
bling, do they realize that there must be 
some system in note-taking. A careful 
examination of note-taking shows that 
there are rules or principles, which, when 
followed, have much to do with increasing 
ability in study. 

One criterion that should guide in the 
preparation of notes is the use to which 
they will be put. If this is kept in mind, 
many blunders will be saved. Notes may 



be used in three ways: as material for 
directing each day's study, for cramming, 
and for permanent, professional use. Thus 
a note-book may be a thing of far-reaching 
value. Notes you take now as a student 
may be valuable years hence in profes- 
sional life. Recognition of this will help 
you in the preparation of your notes and 
will determine many times how they 
should be prepared. 

The chief situations in college which 
require note-taking are lectures, library 
reading and laboratory work. Accordingly 
the subject will be considered under these 
three heads. 

Lecture Notes. — When taking notes 
on a lecture, there are two extremes that 
present themselves, to take exceedingly 
full notes or to take almost no notes. One 
can err in either direction. True, on first 
thought, entire stenographic reports of 
lectures appear desirable, but second 
thought will show that they may be dis- 
pensed with, not only without loss, but 


with much gain. The most obvious ob- 
jection is that too much time would be 
consumed in transcribing short-hand notes. 
Another is that much of the material in 
a lecture is undesirable for permanent 
possession. The instructor repeats much 
for the sake of emphasis; he multiplies 
illustrations, not important in themselves, 
but important for the sake of stress- 
ing his point. You do not need these il- 
lustrations in written form, however, for 
once the point is made you rarely need to 
depend upon the illustrations for its reten- 
tion. A still more cogent objection is 
that if you occupy your attention with 
the task of copying the lecture verbatim, 
you do not have time to think, but become 
merely an automatic recording machine. 
Experienced stenographers say that they 
form the habit of recording so automati- 
cally that they fail utterly to comprehend 
the meaning of what is said. You as a 
student cannot afford to have your atten- 
tion so distracted from the meaning of 


the lecture, therefore reduce your class- 
room writing to a minimum. 

Probably the chief reason why students 
are so eager to secure full lecture notes is 
that they fear to trust their memory. Such 
fears should be put at rest, for your mind 
will retain facts if you pay close attention 
and make logical associations during the 
time of impression. Keep your mind free, 
then, to work upon the subject-matter of 
the lecture. Debate mentally with the 
speaker. Question his statements, com- 
paring them with your own experience or 
with the results of your study. Ask your- 
self frequently, "Is that true?" The 
essential thing is to maintain an attitude 
of mental activity, and to avoid anything 
that will reduce this and make you passive. 
Do not think of yourself as a vat into 
which the instructor pumps knowledge. 
Regard yourself rather as an active force, 
quick to perceive and to comprehend 
meaning, deliberate in acceptance and 
firm in retention. 


After observing the stress laid, through- 
out this book, upon the necessity for 
logical associations, you will readily see 
that the key-note to note-taking is, Let 
your notes represent the logical progres- 
sion of thought in the lecture. Strive above 
all else to secure the skeleton — the frame- 
work upon which the lecture is hung. A 
lecture is a logical structure, and the form 
in which it is represented is the outline. 
This, then, is your chief concern. In the 
case of some lectures it is an easy matter. 
The lecturer may place the outline in your 
hands beforehand, may present it on the 
black-board, or may give it orally. Some 
lecturers, too, present their material in 
such clear-cut divisions that the outline is 
easily followed. Others, however, are very 
difficult to follow in this regard. 

In arranging an outline you will find it 
wise to adopt some device by which the 
parts will stand out prominently, and the 
progression of thought will be indicated 
with proper subordination of titles. Adopt 


some system at the beginning of your 

college course, and use it in all your notes. 

The system here given may serve as a 

model, using first the Roman numerals, 

then capitals, then Arabic numerals : 







In concluding this discussion of lecture 
notes, you should be urged to make good 
use of your notes after they are taken. 
First, glance over them as soon as possible 
after the lecture. Inasmuch as they will 
then be fresh in your mind, you will be 
able to recall almost the entire lecture; 
you will also be able to supply missing 
parts from memory. Some students make 
it a rule to reduce all class-notes to type- 
written form soon after the lecture. This 


is an excellent practice, but is rather 
expensive in time. In addition to this 
after-class review, you should make a 
second review of your notes as the first 
step in the preparation of the next day's 
lesson. This will connect up the lessons 
with each other and will make the course 
a unified whole instead of a series of dis- 
connected parts. Too often a course exists 
in a student's mind as a series of separate 
discussions and he sees only the horizon of a 
single day. This condition might be repre- 
sented by a series of disconnected links: 


A summary of each day's lesson, how- 
ever, preceding the preparation for the 
next day, forges new links and welds them 
all together into an unbroken chain: 


A method that has been found helpful 
i is to use a double-page system of note- 


taking, using the left-hand page for the 
bare outline, with largest divisions, and 
the right-hand page for the details. This 
device makes the note-book readily avail- 
able for hasty review or for more extended 

Reading Notes. — The question of full 
or scanty notes arises in reading notes as 
in lecture notes. In general, your notes 
should represent a summary, in your own 
words, of the authors discussion, not a 
duplication of it. Students sometimes 
acquire the habit of reading single sen- 
tences at a time, then of writing them down, 
thinking that by making an exact copy of 
the book, they are playing safe. This is a 
pernicious practice; it spoils continuity of 
thought and application. Furthermore, 
isolated sentences mean little, and fail 
grossly to represent the real thought of 
the author. A better way is to read 
through an entire paragraph or section, 
then close the book and reproduce in 
your own words what you have read. 


Next, take your summary and compare 
with the original text to see that you have 
really grasped the point. This procedure 
will be beneficial in several ways. It will 
encourage continuous concentration of 
attention to an entire argument; it will 
help you to preserve relative emphasis of 
parts; it will lead you to regard thought 
and not words. (You are undoubtedly 
familiar with the state of mind wherein 
you find yourself reading merely words and 
not following the thought.) Lastly, ma- 
terial studied in this way is remembered 
longer than material read scrappily. In 
short, such a method of reading makes 
not only for good memory, but for good 
mental habits of all kinds. In all your 
reading, hold to the conception of yourself 
as a thinker, not a sponge. Remember, 
you do not need to accept unqualifiedly 
everything you read. A worthy ideal for 
every student to follow is expressed in the 
motto carved on the wall of the great 
reading-room of the Harper Memorial 


Library at The University of Chicago: 
"Read not to contradict, nor to believe, 
but to weigh and consider." Ibsen bluntly 
states the same thought : 

"Don't read to swallow; read to choose, for 
'Tis but to see what one has use for." 

Ask yourself, when beginning a printed 
discussion, What am I looking for? 
What is the author going to talk about? 
Often this will be indicated in topical 
headings. Keep it in the background of 
your mind while reading, and search for 
the answer. Then, when you have read 
the necessary portion, close the book and 
summarize, to see if the author furnished 
what you sought. In short, always read 
for a purpose. Formulate problems and 
seek their solutions. In this way will 
there be direction in your reading and 
your thought. 

This discussion of reading notes has 
turned into an essay on "How to Read," 
and you must be convinced by this time 
that there is much to learn in this respect, 


so much that we may profitably spend 
more time in discussing it. 

Every book you take up should be 
opened with some preliminary ceremony. 
This does not refer to the physical opera- 
tion of opening a new book, but to the 
mental operation. In general, take the 
following steps: 

1. Observe the title. See exactly what 
field the book attempts to cover. 

2. Observe the author's name. If you 
are to use his book frequently, discover 
his position in the field. Remember, you 
are going to accept him as authority, and 
you should know his status. You may 
be told this on the title-page, or you may 
have to consult Who's Who, or the bio- 
graphical dictionary. 

3. Glance over the preface. Under 
some circumstances you should read it 
carefully. If you are going to refer to the 
book very often, make friends with the 
author; let him introduce himself to you; 
this he will do in the preface. Observe 


the date of publication, also, in order to 
get an idea as to the recency of the 

4. Glance over the table of contents. 
If you are very familiar with the field, and 
the table of contents is outlined in detail, 
you might advantageously study it and 
dispense with reading the book. On the 
other hand, if you are going to consult 
the book only briefly, you might find it 
necessary to study the table of contents 
in order to see the relation of the part you 
read to the entire work. 

5. Use the index intelligently; it may 
save you much time. 

You will have much to do throughout 
your college course with the making of 
bibliographies, that is, with the compila- 
tion of lists of books bearing upon special 
topics. You may have bibliographies 
given you in some of your courses, or you 
may be asked to compile your own. Under 
all circumstances, prepare them with the 
greatest care* Be scrupulous in giving 


references. There is a standard form for 
referring to books and periodicals, as 

C. R. Henderson, Industrial Insurance (2d 
ed.; Chicago: The University of Chicago 
Press, 1912), p. 321. 

S. I. Curtis, "The Place of Sacrifice," Biblical 
World, Vol. XXI (1902), p. 248^. 

Laboratory Notes. — The form for 
laboratory notes varies with the science 
and is usually prescribed by the instructor. 
Reports of experiments are usually written 
up in the order : Object, Apparatus, Method, 
Results, Conclusions. When detailed in- 
structions are given by the instructor, 
follow them accurately. Pay special atten- 
tion to neatness. Instructors say that the 
greatest fault with laboratory note-books 
is lack of neatness. This reacts upon the 
instructor, causing him much trouble in 
correcting the note-book. The resulting 
annoyance frequently prejudices him, 
against his will, against the student. It is 
safe to assert that you will materially 


increase your chances of a good grade in a 
laboratory course by the preparation of a 
neat note-book. 

The key-note of the twentieth century 
is economy, the tendency in all lines being 
toward the elimination of waste. College 
students should adopt this aim in the 
regulation of their study affairs, and there 
is much opportunity for applying it in 
note-taking. So far, the discussion has 
had to do with the content of the note-book, 
but its form is equally important. Much 
may be done by utilization of mechanical 
devices to save time and energy. 

First, write in ink. Pencil marks blur 
badly and become illegible in a few months. 
Remember, you may be using the note- 
book twenty years hence, therefore make 
it durable. 

Second, write plainly. This injunction 
ought to be superfluous, for common sense 
tells us that writing which is illegible 
cannot be read even by the writer, once 
it has " grown cold." 


Third, take care in forming sentences. 
Do not make your notes consist simply 
of separate, scrappy jottings. True, it is 
difficult, under stress, to form complete 
sentences. The great temptation is to jot 
down a word here and there and trust to 
luck or an indulgent memory to supply 
the context at some later time. A little 
experience, however, will quickly demon- 
strate the futility of such hopes; therefore 
strive to form sensible phrases, and to 
make the parts of the outline cohere. 
Apply the principles of English composi- 
tion to the preparation of your note-book. 

A fourth question concerns size and 
shape of the note-book. These features 
depend partly upon the nature of the 
course and partly upon individual taste. 
It is often convenient and practicable to 
keep the notes for all courses in a single 
note-book. Men find it advantageous to 
use a small note-book of a size that can be 
carried in the coat pocket and studied at 
odd moments. 


A fifth question of a mechanical nature 
is, Which is preferable, bound or loose-leaf 
note-books? Generally the latter will be 
found more desirable. Leaves are easily 
inserted and the sections are easily filed 
on completion of a course. 

It goes without saying that the manner 
in which notes are to be taken will be 
determined by many factors, such as the 
nature of individual courses, the wishes of 
instructors, personal tastes and habits. 
Nevertheless, there are certain principles 
and practices which are adaptable to 
nearly all conditions, and it is these that 
we have discussed. Remember, note- 
taking is one of the habits you are to form 
in college. See that the habit is started 
rightly. Adopt a good plan at the start 
and adhere to it. You may be encouraged, 
too, with the thought that facility in note- 
taking will come with practice. Note- 
taking is an art and as you practise you 
will develop skill. 

We have noted some of the most obvious 


and immediate benefits derived from well- 
prepared notes, consisting of economy of 
time, ease of review, ease of permanent 
retention. There are other benefits, how- 
ever, which, though less obvious, are of far 
greater importance. These are the perma- 
nent effects upon the mind. Habits of 
correct thinking are the chief result of 
correct note-taking. As you develop in 
this particular ability, you will find cor- 
responding improvement in your ability to 
comprehend and assimilate ideas, to retain 
and reproduce facts, and to reason with 
thoroughness and independence. 


Though most people understand more 
or less vaguely that the brain acts in some 
way during study, exact knowledge of the 
nature of this action is not general. As 
you will be greatly assisted in understand- 
ing mental processes by such knowledge, 
we shall briefly examine the brain and its 
connections. It will be manifestly impos- 
sible to inquire into its nature very 
minutely, but by means of a description 
you will be able to secure some conception 
of it and thus will be able better to control 
the mental processes which it underlies. 

To the naked eye the brain is a large 
jelly-like mass enclosed in a bony covering, 
about one-fourth of an inch thick, called 
the skull. Inside the skull it is protected 
by a thick membrane. At its base emerges 
the spinal cord, a long strand of nerve 
fibers extending down the spine. For 



most of its length, the cord is about as 
large around as your little finger, but it 
tapers at the lower end. From it at right 
angles throughout its length branch out 
thirty-one pairs of fibrous nerves which 
radiate to all parts of the body. The 
brain and spinal cord, with all its ramifica- 
tions, are known as the nervous system. 
You see now that, though we started with 
the statement that the mind is intimately 
connected with the brain, we must now 
enlarge our statement and say it is con- 
nected with the entire nervous system. 
It is therefore to the nervous system that 
we must turn our attention. 

Although to the naked eye the nervous 
system is apparently made up of a number 
of different kinds of material, still we see, 
when we turn our microscopes upon it, 
that its parts are structurally the same. 
Reduced to lowest terms, the nervous 
system is found to be composed of minute 
units of structure called nerve-cells or 
neurones. Each of these looks like a string 


frayed out at both ends, with a bulge some- 
where along its length. The nervous sys- 
tem is made up of millions of these little 
cells packed together in various combina- 
tions and distributed throughout the body. 
Some of the neurones are as long as three 
feet; others measure but a fraction of an 
inch in length. 

We do not know exactly how the mind, 
that part of us which feels, reasons and 
wills, is connected with this mass of cells 
called the nervous system. We do know, 
however, that every time anything occurs 
in the mind, there is a change in some part 
of the nervous system. Applying this 
fact to study, it is obvious that, when you 
are performing any of the operations of 
study, memorizing foreign vocabularies, 
making arithmetical calculations, reason- 
ing out problems in geometry, you are 
making changes in your nervous system. 
The question before us, then, is, What is 
the nature of these changes? 

According to present knowledge, the 


action of the nervous system is best 
conceived as a form of chemical change 
that spreads among the nerve-cells. We 
call this commotion the nervous current. 
It is very rapid, moving faster than one 
hundred feet a second, and runs along the 
cells in much the same way as a " spark 
runs along a train of gunpowder." It is 
important to note that neurones never act 
singly; they always act in groups, the 
nervous current passing from neurone to 
neurone. It is thought that the most 
important changes in the nervous system 
do not occur within the individual neu- 
rones, but at the points where they join 
with each other. This point of connection 
is called the synapse and although we do 
not understand its exact nature, it may 
well be pictured as a valve that governs 
the passage of the nervous current from 
neurone to neurone. At time of birth, 
most of the valves are closed. Only a few 
are open, mainly those connected with the 
vegetative processes such as breathing and 


digestion. But as the individual is played 
upon by the objects of the environment, 
the valves open to the passage of the 
nervous current. With increased use they 
become more and more permeable, and 
thus learning is the process of making 
easier the passage of the nervous current 
from one neurone to another. 

We shall secure further light upon the 
action of the nervous system if we examine 
some of the properties belonging to nerve- 
cells. The first one is impressibility. 
Nerve-cells are very sensitive to impres- 
sions from the outside. If you have ever 
had the dentist touch an exposed nerve, 
you know how extreme this sensitivity is. 
Naturally such a property is very impor- 
tant in education, for had we not the 
power to receive impressions from the 
outside world we should not be able to 
acquire knowledge. We should not even 
be able to perceive danger and remove 
ourselves from harm. "If we compare a 
man's body to a building, calling the steel 


frame-work his skeleton and the furnace 
and power station his digestive organs and 
lungs, the nervous system would include, 
with other things, the thermometers, heat 
regulators, electric buttons, door-bells, 
valve-openers, — the parts of the building, 
in short, which are specifically designed to 
respond to influences of the environment." 
The second property of nerve-cells which 
is important in study is conductivity. As 
soon as a neurone is stimulated at one 
end, it communicates its excitement, by 
means of the nervous current, to the next 
neurone or to neighboring neurones. Just 
as an electric current might pass along one 
wire, thence to another, and along it to a 
third, so the nervous current passes from 
neurone to neurone. As might be expected, 
the two functions of impressibility and 
conductivity are aided by such an arrange- 
ment of the nerve-cells that the nervous 
current may pass over definitely laid path- 
ways. These systems of pathways will be 
described in a later paragraph. 


The third property of nerve-cells which 
is important in study is modifiability . 
That is, impressions made upon the nerve-* 
cells are retained. Most living tissue is 
modifiable to some extent. The features 
of the face are modifiable, and if one 
habitually assumes a peevish expression, 
it becomes, after a time, permanently 
fixed. The nervous system, however, 
possesses the power of modifiability to a 
marked degree, even a single impression 
sufficing to make striking modification. 
This is very important in study, being the 
basis for the retentive powers of the mind. 

Having examined the action of the 
nervous system in its simplicity, we have 
now to examine the ways in which the 
parts of the nervous system are combined. 
We shall be helped if we keep to the con- 
ception of it as an aggregation of systems 
or groups of pathways. Some of these we 
shall attempt to trace out. Beginning 
with those at the outermost parts of the 
body, we find them located in the sense- 


organs, not only within the traditional 
five, but also within the muscles, tendons, 
joints, and internal organs of the body 
such as the heart, and digestive organs. 
In all these places we find ends of neurones 
which converge at the spinal cord and 
travel to the brain. They are called sen- 
sory neurones and their function is to 
carry messages inward to the brain. Thus, 
the brain represents, in great part, a 
central receiving station for impressions 
from the outside world. The nerve-cells 
carrying messages from the various parts 
of the body terminate in particular areas. 
Thus an area in the back part of the brain 
receives messages from the eyes; another 
area near the top of the brain receives 
messages from the skin. These areas are 
quite clearly marked out and may be 
studied in detail by means of the accom- 
panying diagram. 

There is another large group of nerve- 
cells which, when traced out, are found to 
have one terminal in the brain and the 


other in the muscles throughout the body. 
The area in the brain, where these neurones 
emerge, is near the top of the brain in the 
area marked Motor on the diagram. From 
here the fibers travel down through the 
spinal cord and out to the muscles. The 
nerve-cells in this group are called motor 

Motor Onto 

Skin area 




neurones and their function is to carry- 
messages from the brain out to the muscles, 
for a muscle ordinarily does not act without 
a nervous current to set it off. 

So far we have seen that the brain has 
the two functions of receiving impressions 
from the sense-organs and of sending out 


orders to the muscles. There is a further 
mechanism that must now be described. 
When messages are received in the sensory 
areas, it is necessary that there be some 
means within the brain of transmitting 
them over to the motor area so that they 
may be acted upon. Such an arrangement 
is provided by another group of nerve-cells 
in the brain, having as their function the 
transmission of the nervous current from 
one area to another. They are called 
association neurones and transmit the 
nervous current from sensory areas to 
motor areas or from one sensory area to 
another. For example, suppose you see a 
brick falling from above and you dodge 
quickly back. The neural action accom- 
panying this occurrence consists of an 
impression upon the nerve-cells in the eye, 
the conduction of the nervous current 
back to the visual area of the brain, the 
transmission of the current over associa- 
tion neurones to the motor area, then its 
transmission over the motor neurones, 


down the spinal cord, to the muscles that 
enable you to dodge the missile. The 
association neurones have the further 
function of connecting one sensory area 
in the brain with another. For example, 
when you see, smell, taste and touch an 
orange, the corresponding areas in the 
brain act in conjunction and are asso- 
ciated by means of the association neurones 
connecting them. The association neu- 
rones play a large part in the securing and 
organizing of knowledge. They are very 
important in study, for all learning consists 
in building up associations. 

From the foregoing description we see 
that the nervous system consists merely of 
a mechanism for the reception and trans- 
mission of incoming messages and their 
transformation into outgoing messages 
which produce movement. The brain is 
the center where such transformations are 
made, being a sort of central switchboard 
which permits the sense-organs to come 
into communication with muscles. It is 


also the instrument by means of which the 
impressions from the various senses can 
be united and experience can be unified. 
The brain serves further as the medium 
whereby impressions once made can be 
retained. That is, it is the great organ 
of memory. Hence we see that it is to 
this organ we must look for the perform- 
ance of the activities necessary to study. 
Everything that enters it produces some 
modification within it. Education con- 
sists in a process of undergoing a selected 
group of experiences of such a nature as 
to leave beneficial results in the brain. 
By means of the changes made there, the 
individual is able better to adjust himself 
to new situations. For when the indi- 
vidual enters the world, he is not prepared 
to meet many situations; only a few of the 
neural connections are made and he is 
able to perform only a meagre number of 
simple acts, such as breathing, crying, 
digestion. The pathways for complex acts, 
such as speaking English or French, or 


writing, are not formed at birth but must 
be built up within the life-time of the 
individual. It is the process of building 
them up that we call education. This 
process is a physical feat involving the 
production of changes in physical material 
in the brain. Study involves the over- 
coming of resistance in the nervous system. 
That is why it is so hard. In your early 
school-days, when you set about laboriously 
learning the multiplication table, your 
unwilling protests were wrung because you 
were being compelled to force the nervous 
current through new pathways, and to 
overcome the inertia of physical matter. 
Today, when you begin a train of reason- 
ing, the task is difficult because you are 
opening hitherto untravelled pathways. 
There is a comforting thought, however, 
which is derived from the factor of modi- 
fiability, in that with each succeeding 
repetition, the task becomes easier, be- 
cause the path becomes worn smoothly 
and the nervous current seeks it of its own 


accord; in other words, each act and each 
thought tends to become habitualized. 
Education is then a process of forming 
habits, and the rest of the book will be 
devoted to the description and discussion 
of habits which a student should form. 


As already intimated, this book adopts 
the view that education is a process of 
forming habits in the brain. In the forma- 
tion of habits there are several principles 
that must be observed. Accordingly we 
shall devote a chapter to the consideration 
of habits in general before discussing the 
specific habits involved in various kinds of 

Habit may be defined roughly as the 
tendency to act time after time in the 
same way. Thus defined, you see that 
the force of habit extends throughout the 
entire universe. It is a habit for the earth 
to revolve on its axis once every twenty- 
four hours and to encircle the sun once 
every year. When a pencil falls from 
your hand it has a habit of dropping to 
the floor. A piece of paper once folded 
tends to crease in the same place. These 



are examples of the force of habit in non- 
living matter. Living matter shows its 
power even more clearly. If you assume a 
petulant expression for some time, it gets 
fixed and the expression becomes habitual. 
The hair may be trained to lie this way or 
that. These are examples of habit in 
living tissue. But there is one particular 
form of living tissue which is most sus- 
ceptible to habit; that is nerve tissue. Let us 
review briefly the facts which underlie this 
characteristic. In nerve tissue, impressi- 
bility, conductivity and modifiability are 
developed to a marked degree. The nerve- 
cells in the sense organs are impressed by 
stimulations from the outside world. The 
nervous current thus generated is con- 
ducted over long nerve fibers, through the 
spinal cord to the brain where it is received 
and we experience a sensation. Thence it 
pushes on, over association neurones in 
the brain to motor neurones, over which it 
passes down the spinal cord again to 
muscles, and ends in some movement. In 


the pathway which it traverses it leaves 
its impression, and, thereafter, when the 
first neurone is excited, the nervous current 
tends to take the same pathway and to 
end in the same movement. 

It should be emphasized that the nervous 
current, once started, always tends to seek 
outlet in movement. This is an extremely 
important feature of neural action, and, 
as will be shown in another chapter, is a 
vital factor in study. Movement may be 
started by the stimulation of a sense organ 
or by an idea. In the latter case it starts 
from regions in the brain without the 
immediately preceding stimulation of a 
sense organ. Howsoever it starts you 
may be sure that it seeks a way out, and 
prefers pathways already traversed. 
Hence you see you are bound to have 
habits. They will develop whether you 
wish them or not. Already you are "a 
bundle of habits"; they manifest them- 
selves in two ways — as habits of action 
and habits of thought. You illustrate the 


first every time you tie your shoes or sign 
your name. To illustrate the second, I 
need only ask you to supply the end of 
this sentence: Columbus discovered 

America in . Speech reveals many 

of these habits of thought. Certain phrases 
persist in the mind as habits so that when 
the phrase is once begun, you proceed 
habitually with the rest of it. When some 
one starts "in spite," your mind goes on 
to think "of"; "more or" calls up "less." 
When I ask you what word is called up by 
"black," you reply "white" according to 
the principles of mental habit. Your mind 
is arranged in such habitual patterns, and 
from these examples you readily see that a 
large part of what you do and think during 
the course of twenty-four hours is habitual. 
Twenty years hence you will be even more 
bound by this overpowering despot. 
Our acts our angels are, or good, or ill, 
Our constant shadows that walk with us still. 

Since you cannot avoid forming habits, 
how important it is that you seek to form 


those that are useful and desirable. In 
acquiring them, there are several general 
principles deducible from the facts of 
nervous action. The first is, guard the 
pathways leading to the brain. Nerve 
tissue is impressible and everything that 
touches it leaves an ineradicable trace. 
You can control your habits to some 
extent, then, by observing caution in per- 
mitting things to impress you. Many 
unfortunate habits of study arise from 
neglect of this. The habit of using a 
"pony," for example, arises when one 
permits oneself to depend upon a group 
of English words before translating a 
foreign language. 

Nerve pathways should then be guarded 
with respect to what enters. They should 
also be guarded with respect to the way 
things enter. Eemember, as the first 
pathway is cut, subsequent nervous cur- 
rents will be directed. Consequently if 
you make a wrong pathway, you will have 
trouble undoing it. 


Another maxim which will obviously 
prevent undesirable pathways is, go slowly 
at first. This is an important principle in 
all learning. If, when trying to learn the 
date 1453, you carelessly impress it first 
as 1435, you are likely to have trouble 
ever after in remembering which is right, 
1453 or 1435. As you value your intel- 
lectual salvation, then, go slowly in making 
the first impression and be sure it is right. 
The next rule is to guard the exits of 
the nervous currents. That is, watch the 
movements you make in response to 
impressions and ideas. This is necessary 
because the nervous current pushes on 
past obstructions, through areas in the 
brain, until it ends in some form of move- 
ment, and in finding the way out, it seeks 
those pathways that have been most 
frequently travelled. In study, it usually 
takes the form of movements of speech or 
writing. You will need to guard this part 
of the process just as you did the incoming 
pathway. You must see that the move- 


ment is made which you wish to build 
into a habit. In learning the pronuncia- 
tion of a foreign -word, for example, see 
that your first pronunciation of it is 
absolutely right. When learning to type- 
write see that you always hit the right key 
during the early trials. The point of exit 
of a nervous current is the point also where 
precautions are to be taken in developing 
good form. The path should be the 
shortest possible, involving only those 
muscles that are absolutely necessary. 
This makes for economy of effort. 

The third general principle to be kept in 
mind is that habits are most easily formed 
in youth, for this is the period when nerve 
tissue is most easily impressed and modi- 
fied. With respect to habit formation, 
then, you see that youth is the time when 
emphasis should be laid upon the forma- 
Jion of as many useful habits as possible. 
The world recognizes this to some extent 
and society is so organized that the youth 
of the race are given leisure and protection 


so that they may form useful habits. The 
world asks nothing of you during the next 
four years except that you develop your- 
self and form useful habits which will 
enable you in later life to take your place 
as a useful and stable member of society. 

In addition to the principles just dis- 
cussed, there are a number of other maxims 
which have been laid down as guides in 
the formation of new habits. The first is, 
make an assertion of will. Vow to yourself 
that you will form the habit, and keep that 
resolve ever before you. 

The second maxim is, make an emphatic 
start. Surround yourself with every aid 
possible. Make it easy at first to perform 
the act and difficult not to perform it. 
For example, if you desire to form the 
habit of arising at six every morning, 
surround yourself with a number of aids. 
Buy an alarm clock, and tell some one of 
your decision. Such efforts at the start 
"will give your new beginning such a 
momentum that the temptation to break 


down will not occur as soon as it otherwise 
might; and every day during which a 
breakdown is postponed adds to the 
chances of its not occurring at all." Man 
has discovered the value of such devices 
during the course of his long history, and 
has evolved customs accordingly. When 
men decide to swear off smoking, they 
choose the opening of a new year when 
many other new things are being started; 
they make solemn promises to themselves, 
to each other, and finally to their friends. 
Such customs are precautions which help 
to bolster up the determination at the 
time when extraordinary effort and deter- 
mination are required. In forming the 
habits incidental to college life, take pains 
from the start to surround yourself with as 
many aids as possible. This will not con- 
stitute a confession of weakness. It is only 
a wise and natural precaution which the 
whole experience of the race has justified. 
The third maxim is, never permit an 
exception to occur. Suppose you have a 


habit of saying "aint" which you wish to 
replace with a habit of saying " isn't." If 
the habit is deeply rooted, you have worn 
a pathway in the brain to a considerable 
depth, represented in the accompanying 
diagram by the line A X B. Let us sup- 
pose that you have already started the 
new habit, and have said the correct word 

B C 

ten times. That means you have worn 
another pathway A X C to a considerable 
depth. During all this time, however, the 
old pathway is still open and at the slight- 
est provocation will attract the nervous 
current. Your task is to deepen the new 
path so that the nervous current will flow 
into it instead of the old. Now suppose 
you make an exception on some occasion 


and allow the nervous current to travel 
over the old path. This unfortunate ex- 
ception breaks down the bridge which you 
had constructed at X from A to C. But 
this is not the only result. The nervous 
current, as it revisits^the old path, deepens 
it more than it was before, so the next 
time a similar situation arises, the current 
seeks the old path with much greater 
readiness than before, and vastly more 
effort is required to overcome it. Some one 
has likened the effect of these exceptions 
to that produced when one drops a ball of 
string that is partially wound. By a 
single slip, more is undone than can be 
accomplished in a dozen windings. 

The fourth maxim is, seize every oppor- 
tunity to act upon your resolution. The 
reason for this will be understood better if 
you keep in mind the fact, stated before, 
that nervous currents once started, whether 
from a sense-organ or from a brain-center, 
always tend to seek egress in movement. 
These outgoing nervous currents leave an 


imprint upon the modifiable nerve tissues 
as inevitably as do incoming impressions. 
Therefore, if you wish your resolves to be 
firmly fixed, you should act upon them 
speedily and often. "It is notinthe moment 
of their forming, but in the moment of 
their producing motor effects, that resolves 
and aspirations communicate the new 'set' 
to the brain. " "No matter how full a 
reservoir of maxims one may possess, and 
no matter how good one's sentiments may 
be, if one has not taken advantage of 
every concrete opportunity to act, one's 
character may remain entirely unaffected 
for the better." Particularly at time of 
emotional excitement one makes resolves 
that are very good, and a glow of fine 
feeling is present. Beware that these 
resolves do not evaporate in mere feeling. 
They should be crystallized in some form 
of action as soon as possible. "Let the 
expression be the least thing in the world — 
speaking genially to one's grandmother, 
or giving up one's seat in a . . . car, if 


nothing more heroic offers — but let it not 
fail to take place/ ' Strictly speaking you 
have not really completed a resolve until 
you have acted upon it. You may deter- 
mine to go without lunch, but you have not 
consummated that resolve until you have 
permitted it to express itself by carrying 
you past the door of the dining-room. 
That is the crucial test which determines 
the strength of your resolve. Many 
repetitions will be required before a path- 
way is worn deep enough to be settled. 
Seize the very earliest opportunity to 
begin grooving it out, and seize every 
other opportunity for deepening it. 

After this view of the place in your life 
occupied by habit, you readily see its far- 
reaching possibilities for welfare of body 
and mind. Its most obvious, because 
most annoying, effects are on the side of 
its disadvantages. Bad habits secure a 
grip upon us that we are sometimes 
powerless to shake off. True, this ineradi- 
cableness need have no terrors if we have 


formed good habits. Indeed, as will be 
pointed out in the next paragraph, habit 
may be a great asset. Nevertheless, it may 
work positive harm, or at best, may lead 
to stagnation. The fixedness of habit tends 
to make us move in ruts unless we exert 
continuous effort to learn new things. If we 
permit ourselves to move in old grooves we 
cease to progress and become "old fogy." 

But the advantages of habit far out- 
weigh its disadvantages. Habit helps the 
individual to be consistent and helps people 
to know what to expect from one. It 
helps society to be stable, to incorporate 
within itself modes of action conducive to 
the common good. For example, the 
respect which we all have for the property 
of others is a habit, and is so firmly 
intrenched that we should find ourselves 
unable to steal if we wished to. Habit is 
thus a very desirable asset and is truly 
called the " enormous fly-wheel of society." 

A second advantage of habit is that it 
makes for accuracy. Acts that have 


become habitualized are performed more 
accurately than those not habitualized. 
Movements such as those made in type- 
writing and piano-playing, when measured 
in the psychological laboratory, are found 
to copy each other with extreme fidelity. 
The human body is a machine which may 
be adjusted to a high degree of nicety, 
and habit is the mechanism by which this 
adjustment is made. 

A third advantage is that a stock of 
habits makes life easier. " There is no 
more miserable human being than one in 
whom nothing is habitual but indecision, 
for whom the lighting of every cigar, the 
drinking of every cup, the time of rising 
and going to bed every day and the begin- 
ning of every bit of work, are subjects of 
express volitional deliberation. Full half 
the time of such a man goes to the deciding 
or regretting of matters which ought to 
be so ingrained in him as practically not 
to exist for his consciousness at all." Have 
you ever reflected how miserable you 


would be and what a task living would be 
if you had to learn to write anew every 
morning when you go to class; or if you 
had to relearn how to tie your necktie 
every day? The burden of living would 
be intolerable. 

The last advantage to be discerned in 
habit is economy. Habitual acts do not 
have to be actively directed by conscious- 
ness. While they are being performed, 
consciousness may be otherwise engaged. 
"The more of the details of our daily life 
we can hand over to the effortless custody 
of automatism, the more our higher powers 
of mind will be set free for their own 
proper work." While you are brushing 
your hair or tying your shoes, your mind 
may be engaged in memorizing poetry or 
calculating arithmetical problems. Habit 
is thus a great economizer. 

The ethical consequences of habit are 
so striking that before leaving the subject 
we must give them acknowledgment. We 
can do no better than to turn to the state- 


merit by Professor James, whose wise 
remarks upon the subject have not been 
improved upon : 

"The physiological study of mental condi- 
tions is thus the most powerful ally of horta- 
tory ethics. The hell to be endured hereafter, 
of which theology tells, is no worse than the 
hell we make for ourselves in this world by 
habitually fashioning our characters in the 
wrong way. Could the young but realize how 
soon they will become mere walking bundles 
of habits, they would give more heed to their 
conduct while in the plastic state. We are 
spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never 
to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue 
or of vice leaves its never-so-little scar. The 
drunken Rip Van Winkle, in Jefferson's play, 
excuses himself for every fresh dereliction by 
saying, 'I won't count this time!' Well! he 
may not count it and a kind heaven may not 
count it; but it is being counted none the less. 
Down among his nerve-cells and fibers the 
molecules are counting it, registering it, and 
storing it up to be used against him when the 
next temptation comes. Nothing we ever do 


is, in strict scientific literalness, wiped out. 
Of course this has its good side as well as its 
bad one. As we become permanent drunkards 
by so many drinks, so we become saints in 
the moral, and authorities and experts in the 
practical and scientific, spheres, by so many 
separate acts and hours of work. But let no 
youth have any anxiety about the upshot of 
his education, whatever the line of it may be. 
If he keep faithfully busy each hour of the 
working day, he may safely leave the final 
result to itself. He can with perfect certainty 
count on waking up some fine morning, to 
find himself one of the competent ones of his 
generation, in whatever pursuit he has singled 
out. Silently, between all the details of his 
business, the power of judging in all that class 
of matter will have built itself up within him 
as a possession that will never pass away. 
Young people should know the truth of this 
in advance. The ignorance of it has probably 
engendered more discouragement and faint- 
heartedness in youths embarking on arduous 
careers than all other causes put together." 

Of all the mental operations employed 
by the student, memory is probably the 
one in which the greatest inefficiency is 
manifested. Though we often fail to 
realize it, much of our life is taken up 
with memorizing. Every time we make 
use of past experience, we rely upon this 
function of the mind, but in no occupation 
is it quite so practically important as in 
study. We shall begin our investigation 
of memory by dividing it into four phases 
or stages — Impression, Retention, Recall 
and Recognition. Any act of memory 
involves them all. There is first a stage 
when the material is being impressed; 
second, a stage when it is being retained 
so that it may be revived in the future; 
third, a stage of recall when the retained 
material is revived to meet present needs; 
fourth, a feeling of recognition, through 



which the material is recognized as having 
previously been in the mind. 

Impression is accomplished through the 
sense organs; and in the foregoing chapter 
we laid down the rule, Guard the avenues 
of impression and admit only such things 
as you wish to retain. This necessitates 
that you go slowly at first. This is a 
principle of all habit formation, but is 
especially important in habits of memoriz- 
ing. Much of the poor memory that 
people complain about is due to the fact 
that they make first impressions care- 
lessly. One reason why people fail to 
remember names is that they do not get a 
clear impression of the name at the start. 
They are introduced in a hurry or the 
introducer mumbles; consequently no clear 
impression is secured. Under such cir- 
cumstances how could one expect to retain 
and recall the name? Go slowly, then, in 
impressing material for the first time. As 
you look up the words of a foreign language 
in the lexicon, trying to memorize their 


English equivalents, take plenty of time. 
Get a clear impression of how the word 
looks or sounds. 

Inasmuch as impressions may be made 
through any of the sense organs, one 
problem in the improvement of memory 
concerns the choice of sense avenues. As 
an infant you used all senses impartially 
in your eager search after information. 
You voraciously put things into your 
mouth and discovered that some things 
were sweet, some sour. You bumped your 
head against things and learned that some 
were hard and some soft. In your insati- 
able curiosity you pulled things apart and 
peered into them; in short, utilized all the 
sense organs. In adult life, however, and 
in education as it takes place through the 
agency of books and instructors, most 
learning depends upon the eye and ear. 
Even yet, however, you learn many things 
through the sense of touch and through 
muscle movement, though you may be 
unaware of it. You probably have better 


success retaining impressions made upon 
one sense than another. The majority of 
people retain better things that are visu- 
ally impressed. Such persons think often 
in terms of visual images. When thinking 
of water running from a faucet, they can 
see the water fall, see it splash, but have 
no trace of the sound. The whole event 
is noiseless in memory. When they think 
of their instructor, they can see him stand- 
ing at his desk but cannot imagine the 
sound of his voice. When striving to think 
of the causes leading to the Civil War, 
they picture them as they are listed on 
the page of the text-book or note-book. 
Other people have not this ability to recall 
in visual terms, but depend to greater 
extent upon sounds. When asked to think 
about their instructor, they do it in terms 
of his voice. When asked to conjugate a 
French verb, they hear it pronounced 
mentally but do not see it on the page. 
These are extremes of imagery type, but 
they illustrate preferences as they are 


found in many persons. Some persons use 
all senses with ease; others unconsciously 
work out combinations, preferring one 
sense for some kinds of material and 
another for other kinds. For example, one 
might prefer visual impression for remem- 
bering dates in history but auditory im- 
pression for conjugating French verbs. 
You will find it profitable to examine your- 
self and discover your preferences. If you 
find that you have greater difficulty in 
remembering material impressed through 
the ear than through the eye, reduce things 
to visual terms as much as possible. Make 
your lecture notes more complete or tabu- 
late things that you wish to remember, thus 
securing impression from the written form. 
The writer has difficulty in remembering 
names that are only heard. So he asks that 
the name be spelled, then projects the let- 
ters on an imaginary background, thus 
forming visual stuff which can easily be 
recalled. If, on the contrary, you remem- 
ber best the things that you hear, you may 


find it a good plan to read your lessons 
aloud. Many a student, upon the discov- 
ery of such a preference, has increased his 
memory ability many fold by adopting the 
simple expedient of reading his lessons 
aloud. It might be pointed out that while 
you are reading aloud, you are making 
more than auditory impressions. By the 
use of the vocal organs you are making 
muscular impressions, which also aid in 
learning, as will be pointed out in Chapter 

After this discussion do not jump to the 
conclusion that just because you find some 
difficulty in using one sense avenue for 
impression, it is therefore impossible to 
develop it. Facility in using particular 
senses can be gained by practice. To 
improve ability to form visual images of 
things, practise calling up visions of things. 
Try to picture a page of your history text- 
book. Can you see the headlines of the 
sections and the paragraphs? To develop 
auditory imagery, practise calling up 


sounds. Try to image your French instruc- 
tor's voice in saying Sieve. The develop- 
ment of these sense fields is a slow and 
laborious process and one questions 
whether it is worth while for a student to 
undertake the labor involved when another 
sense is already very efficient. Probably it 
is most economical to arrange impressions 
so as to favor the sense that is already well 
developed and reliable. 

Another important condition of impres- 
sion is repetition. It is well known that 
material which is repeated several times is 
remembered more easily than that im- 
pressed but once. "If two repetitions 
induce a given liability to recall, four will 
give double the liability, and others in pro- 
portion. " Your knowledge of brain action 
makes this rule intelligible, because you 
know the pathway is deepened every time 
the nervous current passes over it. 

Experiments in the psychological labora- 
tory have shown that it is best in making 
impressions to make more than enough 


impressions to insure recall. "If material 
is to be retained for any length of tirne, a 
simple mastery of it for immediate recall 
is not sufficient. It should be learned far 
beyond the point of immediate reproduc- ] 
tion if time and energy are to be saved. " 
This principle of learning points out the 
fact that there are two kinds of memory — 
immediate and deferred. The first kind 
involves recall immediately after impres- 
sion is made; the second involves recall at 
some later time. It is a well-known fact 
that things learned a long time before they 
are to be recalled fade away. If you are 
not going to recall material until a long 
time after the impression, store up enough 
impressions so that you can afford to lose 
a few and still retain enough until time 
for recall. Another reason for ' overlearn-. 
ing" is that when the time comes for recall 
you are likely to be disturbed. If it is a 
time of public performance, you may be 
embarrassed; or you may be hurried 
or under distractions. Accordingly you 


should have the material exceedingly well 
memorized so that these distractions will 
not prove detrimental. 

The mere statement made above, that 
repetition is necessary in impression, is not 
sufficient. It is important to know how to 
distribute the repetitions. Suppose you 
are memorizing " Psalm of Life" to be 
recited a month from to-day, and that you 
require thirty repetitions of the poem to 
learn it. Shall you make these thirty repe- 
titions at one sitting? Or shall you distrib- 
ute them among several sittings? In gen- 
eral, it is better to spread the repetitions 
over a period of time. The question then 
arises, what is the most effective distribu- 
tion? Various combinations are possible. 
You might rehearse the poem once a day 
during the month, or twice a day for the 
first fifteen days, or the last fifteen days, 
four times every fourth day, ad infinitum. 
In the face of these possibilities is there 
anything that will guide us in distributing 
the repetitions? We shall get some light 


on the question from an examination of 
the curve of forgetting — a curve that has 
been plotted showing the rate at which the 
mind tends to forget. Forgetting pro- 
ceeds according to law, the curve descend- 
ing rapidly at first and then more slowly. 
"The larger proportion of the material 
learned is forgotten the first day or so. 
After that a constantly decreasing amount 
is forgotten on each succeeding day for 
perhaps a week, when the amount remains 
practically stationary." This gives us 
some indication that the early repetitions 
should be closer together than those at the 
end of the period. So long as you are for- 
getting rapidly you will need more repe- 
titions in order to counterbalance the 
tendency to forget. You might well make 
five repetitions; then rest. In about an 
hour, five more; within the next twenty- 
four hours, five more. By this time you 
should have the poem memorized, and all 
within two days. You would still have 
fifteen repetitions of the thirty, and these 


might be used in keeping the poem fresh 
in the mind by a repetition every other 

As intimated above, one important prin- 
ciple in memorizing is to make the first 
impressions as early as possible, for older 
impressions have many chances of being 
retained. This is evidenced by the vivid- 
ness of childhood scenes in the minds of 
our grandparents. An old soldier recalls 
with great vividness events that happened 
during the Civil War, but forgets events 
of yesterday. There is involved here a 
principle of nervous action that you have 
already encountered; namely, that im- 
pressions are more easily made and retained 
in youth. It should also be observed that 
pathways made early have more chances 
of being used than those made recently. 
Still another peculiarity of nervous action is 
revealed in these extended periods of mem- 
orizing. It has been discovered that if a 
rest is taken between impressions, the im- 
pressions become more firmly fixed. This 


points to the presence of a surprising power, 
by which we are able to learn, as it were, 
while we sleep. We shall understand this 
better if we try to imagine what is hap- 
pening in the nervous system. Processes 
of nutrition are constantly going on. The 
blood brings in particles to repair the nerve 
cells, rebuilding them according to the 
pattern left by the last impression. Indeed, 
the entrance of this new material makes 
the impression even more fixed. The 
nutritional processes seem to set the im- 
pression much as a hypo bath fixes or sets 
an impression on a photographic plate. 
This peculiarity of memory led Professor 
James to suggest, paradoxically, that we 
learn to skate in summer and to swim in 
winter. And, indeed, one usually finds, 
in beginning the skating season, that after 
the initial stiffness of muscles wears off, 
one glides along with surprising agility. 
You see then that if you plan things 
rightly, Nature will do much of your learn- 
ing for you. It might be suggested that 


perhaps things impressed just before going 
to sleep have a better chance to "set" 
than things impressed at other times for 
the reason that sleep is the time when the 
reparative processes of the body are most 

Since the brain pattern requires time 
to "set/' it is important that after the 
first impression you refrain from introduc- 
ing anything immediately into the mind 
that might disturb it. After you have 
impressed the poem you are memorizing, 
do not immediately follow it by another 
poem. Let the brain rest for three or four 
minutes until after the first impressions 
have had a chance to "set." 

Now that we have regarded this "un- 
conscious memorizing' y from the neuro- 
logical standpoint, let us consider it from 
the psychological standpoint. How are 
the ideas being modified during the inter- 
vals between impressions? Modern psy- 
chology has discovered that much memo- 
rizing goes on without our knowing it, 


paradoxical as that may seem. The proc- 
esses may be described in terms of the 
doctrine of association, which is that 
whenever two things have once been asso- 
ciated together in the mind, there is a 
tendency thereafter "if the first of them 
recurs, for the other to come with it." 
After the poem of our illustration has 
once been repeated, there is a tendency 
for events in everyday experience that 
are like it to associate themselves with it. 
For example, in the course of a day or week 
many things might arise and recall to you 
the line, "Life is real, life is earnest", and 
it would become, by that fact, more firmly 
fixed in the mind. This valuable semi-con- 
scious recall requires that you must make 
the first impression as early as possible 
before the time for ultimate recall. This 
persistence of ideas in the mind means 
"that the process of learning does not cease 
with the actual work of learning, but that, 
if not disturbed, this process runs on of 
itself for a time, and adds a little to the 


result of our labors. It also means that, if 
it is to our advantage to stand in readiness 
with some word or thought, we shall be 
able to do so, if only this word or thought 
recur to us but once, some time before the 
critical moment. So we remember to keep 
a promise to pay a call, to make a remark 
at the proper time, even though we turn 
our mind to other work or talk for some 
hours between. We can do this because, 
if not vigorously prevented, ideas and 
words keep on reappearing in the mind." 
You may utilize this principle in theme- 
writing to good advantage. As soon as the 
instructor announces the subject for a 
theme, begin to think about it„ Gather 
together all the ideas you have about the 
subject and start your mind to work upon 
it. Suppose you take as a theme-subject 
The Value of Training in Public Speaking 
for a Business Man. The first time this is 
suggested to you, a few thoughts, at least, 
will come to you. Write them down, even 
though they are disconnected and hetero- 


geneous. Then as you go about your other 
work you will find a number of occasions 
that will arouse ideas bearing upon this 
subject. You may read in a newspaper of 
a brilliant speech made before the Chamber 
of Commerce by a leading business man, 
which will serve as an illustration to sup- 
port your affirmative position; or you may 
attend a banquet where a prominent busi- 
ness man disappoints his audience with a 
wretched speech. Such experiences, and 
many others, bearing more or less directly 
upon the subject, will come to you, and 
will call up the theme-subject, with which 
they will unite themselves. Write down 
these ideas as they occur, and you will find 
that when you start to compose the theme 
formally, it almost writes itself, requiring 
for the most part only expansion and 
arrangement of ideas. While thus organiz- 
ing the theme you will reap even more 
benefits from your early start, for, as you 
are composing it, you will find new ideas 
crowding in upon you which you did not 


know you possessed, but which had been 
associating themselves in your mind with 
this topic even when you were unaware of 
the fact. 

In writing themes, the principle of dis- 
tribution of time may also be profitably 
employed. After you have once written a 
theme, lay it aside for a while — perhaps a 
week. Then when you take it up, read it 
in a detached manner and you will note 
many places where it may be improved. 
These benefits are to be enjoyed only when 
a theme is planned a long time ahead. 
Hence the rule to start as early as possible. 

Before leaving the subject of theme- 
writing, which was called up by the discus- 
sion of unconscious memory, another sug- 
gestion will be given that may be of service 
to you. When correcting a theme, employ 
more than one sense avenue. Do not simply 
glance over it with your eye. Read it 
aloud, either to yourself or, better still, to 
someone else. When you do this you will 
be amazed to discover how different it 


sounds and what a new view you secure of 
it. When you thus change your method of 
composition, you will find a new group of 
ideas thronging into your mind. In the 
auditory rendition of a theme you will dis- 
cover faults of syntax which escaped you in 
silent reading. You will note duplication 
of words, split infinitives, mixed tenses, 
poorly balanced sentences. Moreover, if 
your mind has certain peculiarities, you 
may find even more advantages accruing 
from such a practice. The author, for 
example, has a slightly different set of ideas 
at his disposal according to the medium of 
expression employed. When writing with 
a pencil, one set of ideas comes to mind; 
with a typewriter slightly different ideas 
arise; when talking to an audience, still dif- 
ferent ideas. Three sets of ideas and three 
vocabularies are thus available for use on 
any subject. In adopting this device of 
composing through several mediums, you 
should combine with it the principle of dis- 
tributing time already discussed in connec- 


tion with repetition of impressions. Write 
a theme one day, then lay it aside for a few 
days and go back to it with a fresh mind. 
The rests will be found very beneficial in 
helping you to get a new viewpoint of the 

Reverting to our discussion of memory, 
we come upon another question : In mem- 
orizing material like the poem of our 
example, should one impress the entire 
poem at once, or break it up into parts, 
impressing a stanza each day? Most people 
would respond, without thought, the latter, 
and, as a matter of fact, most memorizing 
takes place in this way. Experimental psy- 
chology, however, has discovered that this 
is uneconomical. The selection, if of moder- 
ate length, should be impressed as a whole. 
If too long for this, it should be broken up as 
little as possible. In order to see the neces- 
sity for this let us examine your experiences 
with the memorization of poems in your 
early school days. You probably pro- 
ceeded as follows: After school one day, 


you learned the first stanza, then went out 
to play. The next day you learned the sec- 
ond one, and so on. You thought at the end 
of a week that you had memorized it because, 
at the end of each day's sitting, you were 
able to recite perfectly the stanza learned 
that day. On " speaking day " you started 
out bravely and recited the first stanza 
without mishap. When you started to think 
of the second one, however, it would not 
come. The memory balked. Now what was 
the matter? How can we explain this dis- 
tressing blank? In psychological terms, we 
ascribe the difficulty to the failure to make 
proper associations between stanzas. Asso- 
ciation was made effectively between the 
lines of the single stanzas, but not between 
the separate stanzas. After you finished 
impressing the first stanza, you went about 
something else; playing ball, perhaps. 
When you approached the poem the next 
day you started in with the second stanza. 
There was then no bridge between the two. 


There was nothing to link the last line of 
the first stanza, 

"And things are not what they seem," 

with the first line of the next stanza, 

"Life is real, life is earnest." 

This makes clear the necessity of impress- 
ing the poem as a whole instead of by parts. 
According to another classification, there 
are two ways of memorizing — by rote and 
by logical associations. Rote memorizing 
involves the repetition of material just as 
it stands, and usually requires such long and 
laborious drill that it is seldom economical. 
True, some matter must be memorized this 
way; such as the days of the week and 
the names of the months; but there is 
another and gentler method which is usu- 
ally more effective and economical than 
that of brutal repetition. That is the 
method of logical association, by which one 
links up a new fact with something already 
in the mind. If, for example, you wish to 
remember the date of the World's Fair in 


Chicago, you might proceed as follows: 
Ask yourself, What did the Fair commem- 
orate? The discovery of America in 1492, 
the four hundredth anniversary occurring 
in 1892. The Fair could not be made ready 
in that year, however, so was postponed a 
year. Such a process of memorizing the 
date is less laborious than the method of 
rote memory, and is usually more likely to 
lead to ready recall. The old fact already 
in mind acts as a magnet which at some 
later time may call up other facts that had 
once been associated with it. You can easily 
see that this new fact might have been 
associated with several old facts, thus secur- 
ing more chances of being called up. From 
this it may be inferred that the more facts 
you have in your mind about a subject the 
more chances you have of retaining new 
facts. It is sometimes thought that if a 
person stores so much in his memory it will 
soon be so full that he cannot memorize any 
more. This is a false notion, involving a 
conception of the brain as a hopper into 


which impressions are poured until it runs 
over. On the contrary, it should be 
regarded as an interlacing of fibers with 
infinite possibilities of inter-connection, 
and no one ever exhausts the number of 
associations that can be made. 

The method of logical association may be 
employed with telling effect in the study of 
foreign languages. When you meet a new 
word scrutinize it carefully for some trace 
of a word already familiar to you either 
in that language or in another. This 
independent discovery of meanings is a 
very great aid in saving time and in fixing 
the meaning of new words. Opportunities 
for this method are especially frequent in 
the German language, since so many Ger- 
man words are formed by compounding 
other words. " Rathausmarkt " is a long 
and apparently difficult German word, and 
one's first temptation is to look it up in 
the lexicon and promptly forget it. Let 
us analyze it, however, and we shall see 
that it is only a compound of already 


familiar words. "Rat" is already familiar 
as the word for counsel ("raten" to give 
advice); "haus" is equally familiar. So 
we see that the first part of the word means 
council-house; the council-house of a city 
is called a city hall. "Markt" is equally 
familiar as market-square, so the signifi- 
cance of the entire word stands, city-hall- 
square. By such a method of utilizing 
facts already known, you may make your- 
self much more independent of the lexicon 
and may make your memory for foreign 
words much more tenacious. 

We approach a phase of impression the 
importance of which is often unsuspected; 
namely, the intention with which mem- 
orizing is done. The fidelity of memory is 
greatly affected by the intention. If, at the 
time of impression, you intend to retain 
only until the time of recall, the material 
tends to slip away after that time. If, how- 
ever, you impress with the intention to re- 
tain permanently the material stays by you 
better. Students make a great mistake 


when they study for the purpose merely 
of retaining until after examination time. 
Intend to retain facts permanently, and 
there will be greater likelihood of their 

Our discussion up to this point has 
centred around the phase of memory 
called impression. We have described 
some of the conditions favorable to im- 
pression and have seen that certain and 
accurate memory depends upon adher- 
ence to them. The next phase of memory 
— Retention — cannot be described in psy- 
chological terms. We know we retain facts 
after they are once impressed, but as to 
their status in the mind we can say nothing. 
If I should ask you when the Declaration 
of Independence was signed, you would 
reply instantly. When I ask you, however, 
where that fact was five minutes ago, you 
cannot answer. Somewhere in the recesses 
of the mind, we say, but as to immediate 
awareness of it, there was none. We may 
try to think of retention in terms of nerve 


cells and say that at the time when the 
material was first impressed there was 
some modification made in certain nerve 
cells which persisted. This trait of nerve 
modifiability is one factor which accounts 
for greater retentive power in some persons 
than in others. It must not be concluded, 
however, that all good memory is due to 
the inheritance of this trait. It is due 
partly to observance of proper conditions 
of impression, and much can be done to 
overcome or offset innate difficulty of 
modification by such observance. 

We are now ready to examine the third 
phase of memory — Recall. This is the 
stage at which material that has been 
impressed and retained is recalled to serve 
the purpose for which it was memorized. 
Recall is thus the goal of memory, and all 
the devices so far discussed have it for 
their object. Can we facilitate recall by 
any other means than by faithful and in- 
telligent impressions? For answer let us 
examine the state of mind at time of recall. 


We find that it is a unique mental state. 
It differs from impression in being a period 
of more active search for facts in the mind 
accompanied by expression, instead of a 
concentration upon the external impres- 
sion. It is also usually accompanied by 
motor expressions, either talking or writing. 
Since recall is a unique mental state, you 
ought to prepare for it by means of a re- 
hearsal. When you are memorizing any- 
thing to be recalled, make part of your 
memorizing a rehearsal of it, if possible, 
under same conditions as final recall. In 
memorizing from a book, first make im- 
pression, then close the book and practise 
recall. When memorizing a selection to be 
given in a public speaking class, inter- 
sperse the periods of impression with pe- 
riods of recall. This is especially necessary 
in preparation for public speaking, for 
facing an audience gives rise to a vastly 
different psychic attitude from that of 
impression. The sight of an audience may 
be embarrassing or exciting. Further- 


more, unforeseen distractions may arise. 
Accordingly, create those conditions as 
nearly as possible in your preparation. 
Imagine yourself facing the audience. 
Practise aloud so that you will become 
accustomed to the sound of your own voice, 
The importance of the practice of recall as 
a part of the memory process can hardly 
be overestimated. One psychologist has 
advised that in memorizing significant 
material more than half the time should 
be spent in practising recall. 

There still remains a fourth phase of 
memory — Recognition. Whenever a re- 
membered fact is recalled, it is accompanied 
by a characteristic feeling which we call 
the feeling of recognition. It has been 
described as a feeling of familiarity, a glow 
of warmth, a sense of ownership, a feeling 
of intimacy. As you walk down the street 
of a great city you pass hundreds of faces, 
all of them strange. Suddenly in the 
crowd you catch sight of some one you know 
and are instantly suffused with a glow of 


feeling that is markedly different from 
your feeling toward the others. That glow 
represents the feeling of recognition. It 
is always present during # recall and may 
be used to great advantage in studying. 
It derives its virtue for our purpose from 
the fact that it is a feeling, and at the time 
of feeling the bodily activities in general 
are more active. Changes occur in heart 
beat, breathing; various glandular secre- 
tions are affected, the digestive organs 
respond. In this general quickening of 
bodily activity we have reason to believe 
that the nervous system partakes, and 
things become impressed more readily. 
Thus the feeling of recognition that accom- 
panies recall is responsible for one of the 
benefits of reviews. At such a time ma- 
terial once memorized becomes tinged 
with a feelingful color different from that 
which accompanied it when new. Review, 
then, not merely to produce additional 
impressions, but also to take advantage of 
the feeling of recognition. 


We have now discussed memory in its 
four phases and have seen clearly that it 
operates not in a blind, chaotic manner, 
but according to law. Certain conditions 
are required and when they are met mem- 
ory is good. After providing proper con- 
ditions for memory, then, trust your mem- 
ory . An attitude of confidence is very 
necessary. If, when you are memorizing, 
you continually tremble for fear that you 
will not recall at the desired moment, the 
fixedness of the impression will be greatly 
hindered. Therefore, after utilizing all 
your knowledge about the conditions of 
memorizing, rest content and trust to the 
laws of Nature. They will not fail you. 

By this time you have seen that memory 
is not a mysterious mental faculty with 
which some people are generously endowed, 
and of which others are deprived. All 
people of normal intelligence can remember 
and can improve their ability if they desire. 
The improvement does not take the form 
that some people expect, however. No 


magic wand can transform you into a 
good memorizer. You must work the 
transformation yourself. Furthermore, it 
is not an instantaneous process to be accom- 
plished overnight. It will come about 
only after you have built up a set of habits, 
according to our conception of study as a 
process of habit formation. 

A final word of caution should be added. 
Some people think of memory as a sepa- 
rate division or compartment of the mind 
which can be controlled and improved by 
exercising it alone. Such a conception is 
fallacious. Improvement in memory will 
involve improvement in other mental abil- 
ities, and you will find that as you improve 
your ability to remember, you will develop 
at the same time better powers to concen- 
trate attention, to image, to associate 
facts and to reason. 



Nearly everyone has difficulty in the 
concentration of attention. Brain workers 
in business and industry, students in high 
school and college, and even professors in 
universities, complain of the same difficulty. 
Attention seems in some way to be at the 
very core of mental activity, for no matter 
from what aspect we view the mind, its 
excellence seems to depend upon the power 
to concentrate attention. When we exam- 
ine a growing infant, one of the first signs 
by which we judge the awakening of intelli- 
gence is the power to pay attention or to 
"notice things." When we examine the 
intellectual ability of normal adults we do 
so by means of tests that require close con- 
centration of attention. In judging the 
intelligence of people with whom we asso- 
ciate every day, we regard one who is able 

to maintain close attention for long periods 


of time as a person of strong mind. We 
rate Thomas Edison as a powerful thinker 
when we read that he becomes so absorbed 
in work that he neither eats nor sleeps. 
Finally, when we examine the insane and 
the feeble-minded, we find that one form 
which their derangements take is an inabil- 
ity to control the attention. This evidence, 
added to our own experience, shows us the 
importance of concentration of attention in 
study and we become even more desirous 
of investigating attention to see how we 
may develop it. 

We shall be better able to discuss atten- 
tion if we select for analysis a concrete sit- 
uation when the mind is in a state of con- 
centrated attention. Concentrate for a 
moment upon the letter 0. Although you 
are ostensibly focussing all your powers of 
attention upon the letter, nevertheless you 
are really aware of a number of things 
besides; of other words on the page; of 
other objects in the field of vision; of sounds 
in the room and on the street; of sensations 


from your clothing; and of sensations from 
your bodily organs, such as the heart and 
lungs. In addition to these sensations, you 
will find, if you introspect carefully enough, 
that your mind also contains a number of 
ideas and imaginings; thoughts about the 
paragraph you just read or about one of 
your lessons. Thus we see that at a time 
when we apparently focus our attention 
upon but one thing, we really have a large 
number of things in our mind, and they are 
of a great variety. The mental field might 
be represented by a circle, at the centre of 
which is the object of attention. It may be 
an object in the external world perceived 
through one of the senses, or it may be an 
idea we are thinking about, such, for ex- 
ample, as the idea of infinity. But whether 
the thing attended to is a perception or an 
idea, we may properly speak of it as the 
object of attention or the "focal" object. 
In addition to this, we must recognize the 
presence of a large number of other objects, 
both sensory and ideational. These are 


nearer the margin of the mental field, so we 
call them "marginal. " 

The distinctive thing about a state of 
mind such as that just described is that the 
focal object is much clearer than the mar- 
ginal objects. For example, when you fix- 
ated the letter 0, it was only in the vaguest 
sort of fashion that you were aware of the 
contact of your clothing or the lurking 
ideas of other lessons. As we examine 
these marginal objects further, we find that 
they are continually seeking to crowd into 
the centre of attention and to become clear. 
You may be helped in forming a vivid pict- 
ure of conditions if you think of the mind 
as a stream ever in motion, and as it flows 
on, the objects in it continually shift their 
positions. A cross-section of the stream at 
any moment may show the contents of the 
mind arranged in a particular pattern, but at 
the very next moment they may be arranged 
in a different pattern, another ob j ect occupy- 
ing the focus, while the previous tenant is 
pushed to the margin. Thus we see that it 


is a tendency of the mind to be forever 
changing. If left to itself, it would be in 
ceaseless fluctuation, the whim of every 
passing fancy. This tendency to fluctuate 
comes with more or less regularity, some 
psychologists say every second or two. 
True, we do not always yield to the fluctu- 
ating tendency, nevertheless we are recur- 
rently tempted, and we must exercise con- 
tinuous effort to keep a particular object 
at the focus. The power to exert effort and 
to regulate the arrangement of our states 
of mind is the peculiar gift of man, and is a 
prime function of education. Viewed in 
this light, then, we see that the voluntary 
focusing of our attention consists in the 
selecting of certain objects to be attended 
to, and the ignoring of other objects which 
act as distractions. We may conveniently 
classify the latter as external sensations, 
bodily sensations and irrelevant ideas. 

Let us take an actual situation that may 
arise in study and see how this applies. 
Suppose you are in your room studying 


about Charlemagne, a page of your history 
text occupying the centre of your attention. 
The marginal distractions in such a case 
would consist, first, in external sensations, 
such as the glare from your study-lamp, 
the hissing of the radiator, the practising 
of a neighboring vocalist, the rattle of 
passing street-cars. The bodily distrac- 
tions might consist of sensations of weari- 
ness referred to the back, the arms and the 
eyes, and fainter sensations from the 
digestive organs, heart and lungs. The 
irrelevant ideas might consist of thoughts 
about a German lesson which you are 
going to study, visions of a face, or thoughts 
about some social engagement. These 
marginal objects are in the mind even 
when you conscientiously focus your mind 
upon the history lesson, and, though vague, 
they try to force their way into the focus 
and become clear. The task of paying 
attention, then, consists in maintaining 
the desired object at the centre of the 
mental field and keeping the distractions 


away. With this definition of attention, 
we see that in order to increase the effec- 
tiveness of attention during study, we must 
devise means for overcoming the distrac- 
tions peculiar to study. Obviously the 
first thing is to eliminate every distraction 
possible. Such a plan of elimination may 
require a radical rearrangement of study 
conditions, for students often fail to real- 
ize how wretched their conditions of 
study are from a psychological standpoint. 
They attempt to study in rooms with two 
or three others who talk and move about 
continually; they drop down in any spot 
in the library and expose themselves need- 
lessly to a great number of distractions. 
If you wish to become a good student, you 
must prepare conditions as favorable as 
possible for study. Choose a quiet room 
to live in, free from distracting sounds and 
sights. Have your room at a temperature 
neither too hot nor too cold; 68° F. is 
usually considered favorable for study. 
When reading in the library, sit down in 


a quiet spot, with your back to the door, 
so you will not be tempted to look up as 
people enter the room. Do not sit near a 
group of gossipers or near a creaking door. 
Having made the external conditions favor- 
able for study, you should next address 
yourself to the task of eliminating bodily 
distractions. The most disturbing of these 
in study are sensations of fatigue, for, 
contrary to the opinion of many people, 
study is very fatiguing work and involves 
continual strain upon the muscles in hold- 
ing the body still, particularly those of 
the back, neck, arms, hands and, above 
all, the eyes. How many movements are 
made by your eyes in the course of an 
hour's study! They sweep back and forth 
across the page incessantly, being moved 
by six muscles which are bound to become 
fatigued. Still more fatigue comes from 
the contractions of delicate muscles within 
the eyeball, where adjustments are made 
for far and near vision and for varying 
amounts of light. The eyes, then, give 


rise to much fatigue, and, altogether, are 
the source of a great many bodily distrac- 
tions in study. 

Other distractions may consist of sen- 
sations from the clothing. We are always 
vaguely aware of pressure of our clothing. 
Usually it is not sufficiently noticeable to 
cause much annoyance, but occasionally 
it is, as is demonstrated at night when we 
take off a shoe with such a sigh of relief 
that we realize in retrospect it had been 
vaguely troubling us all day. 

In trying to create conditions for efficient 
study, many bodily distractions can be 
eliminated. The study chair should be 
easy to sit in so as to reduce fatigue of the 
muscles supporting the body; the book- 
rest should be arranged so as to require 
little effort to hold the book; the light 
should come over the left shoulder. This 
is especially necessary in writing, so that 
the writing hand will not cast a shadow 
upon the work. The muscles of the eyes 
will be rested and fatigue will be retarded 


if you close the eyes occasionally. Then 
in order to lessen the general fatigue of the 
body, you may find it advantageous to 
rise and walk about occasionally. Lastly, 
the clothing should be loose and uncon- 
fining; especially should there be plenty of 
room for circulation. 

In the overcoming of distractions, we 
have seen that much may be done by way 
of eliminating distractions, and we have 
pointed out the way to accomplish this to 
a certain extent. But in spite of our most 
careful provisions, there will still be dis- 
tractions that cannot be eliminated. You 
cannot, for example, chloroform the vocal- 
ist in the neighboring apartment, nor stop 
the street-cars while you study; you can- 
not rule out fatigue sensations entirely, 
and you cannot build a fence around the 
focus of your mind so as to keep out un- 
welcome and irrelevant ideas. The only 
thing to do then is to accept as inevitable 
the presence of some distractions, and to 
realize that to pay attention, it is neces- 


sary to habituate yourself to the ignoring 
of distractions. 

In the accomplishment of this end it 
will be necessary to apply the principles 
of habit formation already described. 
Start out by making a strong determination 
to ignore all distractions. Practise ignor- 
ing them, and do not let a slip occur. Try 
to develop interest in the object of atten- 
tion, because we pay attention to those 
things in which we are most interested. 
A final point that may help you is to use 
the first lapse of attention as a reminder 
of the object you desire to fixate upon. 
This may be illustrated by the following 
example: Suppose, in studying a history 
lesson, you come upon a reference to the 
royal apparel of Charlemagne. The word 
"royal" might call up purple, a North- 
western University pennant, the person 
who gave it to you, and before you know 
it you are off in a long day-dream leading 
far from the history lesson. Such migra- 
tions as these are very likely to occur in 


study, and constitute one of the most 
treacherous pitfalls of student life. In 
trying to avoid them, you must form 
habits of disregarding irrelevant ideas 
when they try to obtrude themselves. 
And the way to do this is to school your- 
self so that the first lapse of attention will 
remind you of the lesson in hand. It can 
be done if you keep yourself sensitive to 
wanderings of attention, and let the first 
slip from the topic with which you are 
engaged remind you to pull yourself back. 
Do this before you have taken the step 
that will carry you far away, for with 
each step in the series of associations it 
becomes harder to draw yourself back into 
the correct channel. 

In reading, one frequent cause for lapses 
of attention and for the intrusion of un- 
welcome ideas is obscurity in the material 
being read. If you trace back your lapses 
of attention, you will often find that they 
first occur when the thought becomes 
difficult to follow, the sentence ambiguous, 


or a single word unusual. As a result, the 
meaning grows hazy in your mind and 
you fail to comprehend it. Naturally, 
then, you drift into a channel of thought 
that is easier to follow. This happens 
because the mental stream tends to seek 
channels of least resistance. If you intro- 
spect carefully, you will undoubtedly dis- 
cover that many of your annoying lapses 
of attention can be traced to such condi- 
tions. The obvious remedy is to make 
sure that you understand everything as 
you read. As soon as you feel the thought 
growing difficult to follow, begin to exert 
more effort; consult the dictionary for the 
meanings of words you do not understand. 
Probably the ordinary freshman in college 
ought to look up the meaning of as many 
as twenty words daily. 

Again, the thought may be difficult to 
follow because your previous knowledge 
is deficient; perhaps the discussion in- 
volves some fact which you never did 
comprehend clearly, and you will natur- 


ally fail to understand something built 
upon it. If deficiency of knowledge is 
the cause of your lapses of attention, the 
obvious remedy is to turn back and study 
the fundamental facts; to lay a firm foun- 
dation in your subjects of study. 

This discussion shows that the conditions 
at time of concentrated attention are very 
complex; that the mind is full of a number 
of things; that your object as a student is to 
keep some one thing at the focus of your 
mind, and that in doing so you must con- 
tinuously ignore other mental contents. In 
our psychological descriptions we have 
implied that the mind stands still at times, 
permitting us to take a cross-section and 
examine it minutely. As a matter of fact, 
the mind never stands still. It continually 
moves along, and at no two moments is it 
exactly the same. This results in a condi- 
tion whereby an idea which is at one mo- 
ment at the centre cannot remain there 
unless it takes on a slightly different ap- 
pearance from moment to moment. When 


you attempted to fix your attention upon 
the letter 0, you found a constant tendency 
to shift the attention, perhaps to a varia- 
tion in the intensity of the type or to a flaw 
in the type or in the paper. In view of the 
inevitable nature of these changes, you see 
that in spite of your best efforts you cannot 
expect to maintain any object of study 
inflexibly at the centre of attention. The 
way to do is to manipulate the object so that 
it will appear from moment to moment in a 
slightly different light. If, for example, 
you are trying to concentrate upon a rule 
of English grammar long enough to mem- 
orize it, do not read it over and over again, 
depending solely upon repetition. A better 
way, after thoroughly comprehending it, is 
to think about it in several relations; com- 
pare it with other rules, noting points of 
likeness and difference; apply it to the con- 
struction of a sentence. The essential 
thing is to do something with it. Only thus 
can you keep it in the focus of attention. 
This is equivalent to the restatement of 


another fact stressed in a previous chapter, 
namely, that the mind is not a passive 
thing that stands still, but an active thing. 
When you give attention, you actively se- 
lect from a number of possible objects one 
to be clearer than the rest. This selection 
requires effort under most conditions of 
study, but you may be cheered by the 
thought that as you develop interest in the 
fields of study, and as you develop habits 
of ignoring distractions, you will be able to 
fixate your attention with less and less 
effort. A further important fact is that as 
you develop power to select objects for the 
consideration of attention, you develop 
simultaneously other mental processes — the 
ability to memorize, to economize time and 
effort and to control future thoughts and 
actions. In short, power to concentrate 
attention means power in all the mental 


If you were asked to describe the most 
embarrassing of your class-room experi- 
ences, you would probably cite the occa- 
sions when the instructor asks you a series 
of questions demanding close reasoning. 
As he pins you down to statement of facts 
and forces you to draw valid conclusions, 
you feel in a most perplexed frame of mind. 
Either you find yourself unable to give rea- 
sons, or you entangle yourself in contradic- 
tions. In short, you flounder about help- 
lessly and feel as though the bottom of your 
ship of knowledge has dropped out. And 
when the ordeal is over and you have made 
a miserable botch of a recitation which you 
thought you had been perfectly prepared 
for, you complain that "if the instructor 
had followed the book, " or " if he had asked 

straight questions," you would have an- 


swered every one perfectly, having mem- 
orized the lesson "word for word." 

This complaint, so often voiced by stu- 
dents, reveals the fundamental characteris- 
tic which distinguishes the mental opera- 
tion of reasoning from the others we have 
studied. In reasoning we face a new kind 
of situation presenting difficulties not en- 
countered in the simpler processes of sensa- 
tion, memory, and imagery, and when we 
attempt to substitute these simple processes 
for reasoning, we fail miserably, for the two 
kinds of processes are essentially different, 
and cannot be substituted one for the other. 

Broadly speaking, the mental activities 
of study may be divided into two groups, 
which, for want of better names, we 
shall call processes of acquisition and 
processes of construction. The mental 
attitude of the first is that of acquire- 
ment. "Sometimes our main business 
seems to be to acquire knowledge; cer- 
tain matters are placed before us in 
books or by our teachers, and we are 


required to master them, to make them 
part of our stock of knowledge. At other 
times we are called upon to use the knowl- 
edge we already possess in order to attain 
some end that is set before us." "In 
geography, for example, so long as we are 
merely learning the bare facts of the sub- 
ject, the size and contours of the different 
continents, the political divisions, the 
natural features, we are at the acquisitive 
stage." "But when we go on to try to 
find out the reasons why certain facts 
that we have learned should be as they are 
and not otherwise, we pass to the construc- 
tive stage. We are working constructively 
when we seek to discover why it is that 
great cities are so often found on- the banks 
of rivers, why peninsulas more frequently 
turn southward than northward." You 
readily see that this constructive method 
of study involves the setting and solving 
of problems as its distinguishing feature, 
and that in the solution of these problems 
we make use of reason. 


A little reflection will show that though 
there is a distinct difference between proc- 
esses of acquisition and of construction, 
nevertheless the two must not be regarded 
as entirely separate from each other. "In 
acquiring new facts we must always use a 
little reason, while in constructive work, 
we cannot always rely upon having all 
the necessary matter ready to hand. We 
have frequently to stop our constructive 
work for a little in order to acquire some 
new facts that we find to be necessary. 
Thus we acquire a certain number of new 
facts while we are reasoning about things, 
and while we are engaged in acquiring 
new matter we must use our reason at least 
to some small extent." The two overlap, 
then. But there is a difference between 
them from the standpoint of the student, 
and the terms denote two fundamentally 
different attitudes which students take in 
study. The two attitudes may be illus- 
trated by contrasting the two methods often 
used in studying geometry. Some stu- 


dents memorize the theorem and the steps 
in the demonstration, reciting them ver- 
batim at class-hour. Others do not memo- 
rize, but reason out each step to see its 
relation to the preceding step, and when 
they see it must necessarily follow, they 
pass on to the next and do the same. 
These two types of students apparently 
arrive at the same conclusions, but the 
mental operations leading up to the Q. E. 
D. of each are vastly different. The one 
student does his studying by the rote 
memory method, the other by the road of 
reasoning. The former road is usually 
considered the easier, and so we find it 
most frequently followed. To memorize 
a table, a definition, or a series of dates is 
relatively easy. One knows exactly where 
one is, and can keep track of one's progress 
and test one's success. Some people are 
attracted by such a task and are perfectly 
happy to follow this plan of study. The 
kind of mind that contents itself with such 
phonographic records, however, must be 


acknowledged to be a commonplace sort 
of affair. We recognize its limitations in 
ordinary life, invariably rating it lower 
than the mind that can reason to new 
conclusions and work independently. Ac- 
cordingly, if we wish to possess minds of 
superior quality, we see that we must 
develop the reasoning processes. 

When we examine the mental processes 
by which we think constructively, or, in 
other words, reason, we find first of all 
that there is recognition of a problem to 
be solved. When we start to reason, we 
do it because we find ourselves in a situa- 
tion from which we must extricate our- 
selves. The situation may be physical, 
as when our automobile stops suddenly 
on a country road; or it may be mental, as 
when we are deciding what college to 
attend. In both cases, we recognize that 
we are facing a problem which must be 

After recognition of the problem, our 
next step is to start vigorous efforts to 


solve it. In doing this, we east about for 
means; we summon all the powers at our 
disposal. In the case of the automobile, 
we call to mind other accidents and the 
causes of them; we remember that once 
the spark-plug played out, so we test this 
hypothesis. At another time some dust 
got into the carburetor, so we test this. 
So we go on, calling up possible causes 
and applying appropriate remedies until 
the right one is found and the engine is 
started. In bringing to bear upon the 
problem facts from our past experience, 
we form a series of judgments. In the case 
of the problem as to what college to 
attend, we might form these judgments: 
this college is nearer home; that one has a 
celebrated faculty; this one has good labo- 
ratories; that one is my father's alma 
mater. So we might go on, bringing up 
all the facts regarding the problem and 
fitting each one mentally to see how it 
works. Note that this utilization of ideas 
should not consist merely of fumbling 


about in a vague hope of hitting upon 
some solution. It must be a systematic 
search, guided by carefully chosen ideas. 
For example, "if the clock on the mantle- 
piece has stopped, and we have no idea 
how to make it go again, but mildly shake 
it in the hope that something will happen 
to set it going, we are merely fumbling. 
But if, on moving the clock gently so as 
to set the pendulum in motion, we hear 
it wobbling about irregularly, and at the 
same time observe that there is no ticking 
of any kind, we come to the conclusion 
that the pendulum has somehow or other 
escaped the little catch that connects it 
with the mechanism, we have been really 
thinking. From the fact that the pen- 
dulum wobbles irregularly, we infer that 
it has lost its proper catch. From the 
fact that there is no ticking, we infer the 
same thing, for even when there is some- 
thing wrong with the clock that will pre- 
vent it from going permanently, if the 
pendulum is set in motion by force from 



without it will tick for a few seconds before 
it comes to rest again. The important 
point to observe is that there must be 
inference. This is always indicated by 
the word therefore or its equivalent. If 
you reach a conclusion without having 
to use or at any rate to imply a therefore, 
you may take it for granted that you 
have not been really thinking, but only 
jumping to conclusions. " 

This process of putting facts in the form 
of judgments and drawing inferences, may 
be likened to a court-room scene where 
arguments are presented to the judge. As 
each bit of evidence is submitted, it is 
subjected to the test of its applicability 
to the situation or to similar situations in 
the past. It is rigidly examined and 
nothing is accepted as a candidate for the 
solution until it is found by trial (of course, 
in imagination) to be pertinent to the 

The third stage of the reasoning process 
comes when some plan which has been 


suggested as a possible solution of the 
difficulty proves effective, and we make 
the decision; the arguments support or 
overthrow each other, adding to and 
eliminating various considerations until 
finally only one course appears possible. 
As we said before, the solution comes 
inevitably, as represented by the word 
therefore. Little active work on our part 
is necessary, for if we have gone through 
these other phases properly the decision 
will make itself. You cannot make a wrong 
decision if you have the facts before you 
and have given each the proper weight. 
When the solution comes, it is recognized 
as right, for it comes tinged with a feeling 
that we call belief. 

Now that we have found the reasoning 
process to be one of problem-solving, of 
which the first step is to acknowledge and 
recognize the difficulty, the second, to call 
up various methods of solution, and the 
third, to decide on the basis of one of the 
solutions that comes tinged with certainty, 


we are ready to apply this schema to study 
in the hope that we may discover the causes 
and remedies for the reasoning difficulties 
of students. In view of the fact that rea- 
soning starts out with a problem, you see at 
once that to make your study effective you 
must study in problems. Avoid an habit- 
ual attitude of mere acquisition. Do not 
memorize facts in the same pattern as they 
are handed out to you. In history, in gen- 
eral literature, in science, do not read facts 
merely as they come in the text, but seek 
the relations between them. Voluntarily 
set before yourself intellectual problems. 
Ask yourself, why is this so? In other 
words, in your study do not merely acquire, 
but also construct. The former makes use 
mostly of memory and though your mem- 
orizing be done ever so conscientiously, if 
it comprise the main part of your study, 
you fail to utilize your mind to its fullest 

Let us now consider the second stage of 
the reasoning process as found in study. 


At this stage the facts in the mind are 
brought forward for the purpose of being 
fitted into the present situation, and the 
essential thing is that you have a large 
number of facts at your disposal. If you 
are going to reason effectively about prob- 
lems in history, mathematics, geography, 
it is absolutely indispensable that you know 
many facts about the subjects. One reason 
why you experience difficulty in reasoning 
about certain subjects is that you do not 
know enough about them. Particularly is 
this true in such subjects as political econ- 
omy, sociology and psychology. The re- 
sults of such ignorance are often demon- 
strated in political and social movements. 
Why do the masses so easily fall victims to 
doubtful reforms in national and municipal 
policies? Because they do not know 
enough about these matters to reason in- 
telligently. Watch ignorant people listen- 
ing to a demagogue and see what unreason- 
able things they accept. The speaker pro- 
pounds a question and then proceeds to 


answer it in his own way. He makes it 
appear plausible, assuring his hearers it is 
the only way, and they agree because they 
do not have enough other facts at their 
command to refute it. They are unable, as 
we say, to see the situation in several 
aspects. The mistakes in reasoning which 
children make have a similar basis. The 
child reaches for the moon, reasoning — 
"Here is something bright; I can touch 
most bright things; therefore, I can touch 
this. " His reasoning is fallacious because 
he does not have all the facts. This con- 
dition is paralleled in the class-room when 
students make what are shamefacedly 
looked back upon as miserable blunders. 
When one of these fiascos occurs the cause 
can many times be referred to the fact that 
the student did not have enough facts at 
his command. Speaking broadly, the most 
effective reasoning in a field can be done by 
one who has had the most extensive expe- 
riences in that field. If one had complete 
acquaintance with all facts, one would have 


perfect conditions for reasoning. Thus w.e 
see that effectiveness in reasoning demands 
an extensive array of facts. Accordingly, 
in your courses of study you must read with 
avidity. When you are given.a list of read- 
ings in a course, some of which are required 
and some optional, read both sets, and 
every new fact thus secured will make you 
better able to reason in the field. 

But good reasoning demands more than 
mere quantity of ideas. The ideas must 
conform to certain qualitative standards 
before they may be effectively employed 
in reasoning. They must arise with 
promptness, in an orderly manner, perti- 
nent to the matter in hand, and they 
must be clear. In securing promptness 
of association on. the part of your ideas, 
employ the methods described in the 
chapter on memory. Make many logical 
associations with clearness and repetition. 
In order to insure the rise of ideas in an 
orderly manner, pay attention to the 
manner in which you acquire them. 


Remember, things will be recalled as they 
were impressed, so the value of your ideas 
in reasoning will depend upon the manner 
in which you make original impressions. 
A further characteristic of serviceable 
ideas is clarit}^ Ideas are sometimes 
described as "clear" in opposition to 
"muddy." You know what is meant by 
these distinctions, and you may be assured 
that one cause for your failures in reasoning 
is that your ideas are not clear. This 
manifests itself in inability to make clear 
statements and to comprehend clearly. 
The latter condition is easily illustrated. 
When you began the study of geometry 
you faced a multitude of new terms; we 
call them technical terms, such as projec- 
tion, scalene, theory of limits. These had 
to be clearly understood before you could 
reason in the subject. And when, in the 
progress of your study, you experienced 
difficulty in reasoning out problems, it 
was very likely due to the fact that you 
did not master the technical terms, and 


as soon as you encountered the difficulties 
of the course, you failed because your 
foundation laying did not involve the 
acquisition of clear ideas. Examine your 
difficulties in reasoning subjects and if 
you find them traceable to vagueness of 
ideas, take steps to clarify them. 

Ideas may be clarified in two ways: by 
definition and by classification. Defi- 
nition is a familiar device, for you have 
had much to do with it in learning. The 
memorization of definitions is an excellent 
practice, not as an end in itself, but as a 
means to the end of effective reasoning. 
Throughout your study, then, pay much 
attention to definitions. Some you will 
find in your texts, but others you will 
have to make for yourself. In order to get 
practice in this, undertake the manufac- 
ture of a few definitions, using terms such 
as charity, benevolence, natural selection. 
This exercise will reveal what an exacting 
mental operation definition is and will prove 
how vague most of your thinking really is. 


A large stock of definitions will help 
you to think rapidly. Standing as they 
do for a large group of experiences, defi- 
nitions are a means of mental economy. 
For illustration of their service in reason- 
ing, suppose you were asked to compare 
the serf, the peon and the American slave. 
If you have a clean-cut definition of each 
of these terms, you can readily differentiate 
between them, but if you cannot define 
them, you will hardly be able to reason 
concerning them. 

The second means of clarifying ideas is 
classification. By this is meant the proc- 
ess of grouping similar ideas or similar points 
of ideas. For example, your ideas of serf, 
peon and slave have some points in common. 
Group the ideas, then, with reference to 
these points. Then in reasoning you can 
quickly place an idea in its proper group. 

The third stage of the reasoning process 
is decision, based on belief, and it comes 
inevitably, provided the other two proc- 
esses have been performed rightly. Ac- 


cordingly, we need say little about its place 
in study. One caution should be pointed 
out in making decisions. Do not make 
them hastily on the basis of only one or 
two facts. Wait until you have canvassed 
all the ideas that bear importantly upon 
the case. The masses that listen too 
eagerly to the demagogue do not err 
merely from lack of ideas, but partly be- 
cause they do not utilize all the facts at 
their disposal. This fault is frequently 
discernible in impulsive people, who noto- 
riously make snap-judgments, which means 
that they decide before canvassing all the 
evidence. This trait marks the funda- 
mental difference between superficial and 
profound thinkers. The former accept sur- 
face facts and decide immediately, while 
the latter refuse to decide until after 
canvassing many facts. 

In the improvement of reasoning ability 
your task is mainly one of habit forma- 
tion. It is necessary, first, to form the 
habit of stating things in the form of 


problems; second, to form habits by which 
ideas arise promptly and profusely; third, 
to form habits of reserving decisions until 
the important facts are in. These are all 
specific habits that must be built up if 
the reasoning processes of the mind are to 
be effective. Already you have formed 
some habits, "if not habits of careful 
looking into things, then habits of hasty, 
heedless, impatient glancing over the sur- 
face; if not habits of consecutively follow- 
ing up the suggestions that occur, then 
habits of haphazard, grass-hopper-like 
guessing; if not habits of suspending judg- 
ment until inferences have been tested by 
the examination of evidence, then habits 
of credulity alternating with flippant in- 
credulity, belief or unbelief being based 
in either case upon whim, emotion or 
accidental circumstances. The only way 
to achieve traits of carefulness, thorough- 
ness, and continuity . . . is by exer- 
cising these traits from the beginning, and 
by seeing to it that conditions call for 


their exercise. " Apply the principles of 
habit formation already enunciated, and 
remember that with every act of reasoning 
you perform, you are moulding yourself into 
a careless reasoner or an accurate reasoner, 
into a clear thinker or a muddy thinker. 
This chapter shows that reasoning is 
one of the highest powers of man. It is a 
mark of originality and intelligence, and 
stamps its possessor not a copier but an 
originator, not a follower but a leader, 
not a slave, to have his thinking foisted 
upon him by others, but a. free and inde- 
pendent intellect, unshackled by the bonds 
of ignorance and convention. The man 
who employs reason in acquiring knowl- 
edge, finds delights in study that are 
denied to a rote memorizer. When one 
looks at the world through glasses of 
reason, inquiring into the eternal why, then 
facts take on a new meaning, knowledge 
comes with new power, the facts of expe- 
rience glow with vitality, and one's own 
relations with them appear in a new light. 


In our discussion of the nervous basis 
underlying study we observed that nerve 
pathways are affected not only by what 
enters over the sensory pathways, but also 
by what flows out over the motor path- 
ways. As the nerve currents travel out 
from the motor centres in the brain to 
the muscles, they leave traces which modify 
future thoughts and actions. This being 
so, it is easy to see that what we give out 
is fully as important as what we take in; in 
other words, our expressions are just as 
important as our impressions. By expres- 
sions we mean the motor consequences of 
our thoughts, and in study they usually 
take the form of speech and writing of a 
kind to be specified later. 

The far-reaching effects of motor expres- 
sions are too infrequently emphasized, but 



psychology forces us to give them prime 
consideration. We are first apprised of their 
importance when we study the nervous 
system, and find that every incoming sen- 
sory message pushes on and on until it 
finds a motor pathway over which it may 
travel and produce movement. This is 
inevitable. The very structure and arrange- 
ment of the neurones is such that we are 
obliged to make some movement in re- 
sponse to objects affecting our sense 
organs. The extent of movement may 
vary from the wide-spread tremors that 
occur when we are frightened by a thunder- 
storm to the merest flicker of an eye-lash. 
But whatever be its extent, movement 
invariably occurs when we are stimulated 
by some object. This has been demon- 
strated in startling ways in the psycho- 
logical laboratory, where even so simple 
a thing as a piece of figured wall-paper has 
been shown to produce measurable bodily 
disturbances. Ordinarily we do not notice 
these because they are so slight, some- 


times being merely twitches of deep-seated 
muscles or slight enlargements or contrac- 
tions of arteries which are very responsive 
to nerve currents. But no matter how 
large or how small, we may be sure that 
movements always occur on the excitation 
of a sense organ. This led us to assert in 
an earlier chapter that the function of 
the nervous system is to convert incoming 
sensory currents into outgoing motor 

So ingrained is this tendency toward 
movement that we do not need even a 
sensory cue to start it off; an idea will do 
as well. In other words, the nervous cur- 
rent need not start at a sense organ, but 
may start in the brain and still produce 
movement. This fact is embodied in the 
law of ideo-motor action (distinguished 
from sensory-motor action), " every idea 
in the mind tends to express itself in move- 
ment. " This motor character of ideas is 
manifested in a most thorough-going way 
and renders our muscular system a faith- 


ful mirror of our thoughts. We have in 
the psychological laboratory delicate ap- 
paratus which enables us to measure many 
of these slight movements. For example, 
we fasten a recording device to the top of 
a person's head, so that his slightest move- 
ments will be recorded, then we ask him 
while standing perfectly still to think of 
an object at his right side. After several 
moments the record shows that he involun- 
tarily leans in the direction of the object 
about which he is thinking. We find 
further illustration of this law when we 
examine people as they read, for they in- 
voluntarily accompany the reading with 
movements of speech, measurable in the 
muscles of the throat, the tongue and the 
lips. These facts, and many others, con- 
stitute good evidence for the statement 
that ideas seek expression in movement. 

The ethical consequences of this are so 
momentous that we must remark upon 
them in passing. We now see the force 
of the biblical statement, "Not that which 


entereth into the mouth defileth the man; 
but that which proceedeth out of the 
mouth, this defileth the man. " Think 
what it means to one's character that every 
thought harbored in the mind is bound to 
come out. It may not manifest itself at 
once in overt action, but it affects the 
motor pathways and either weakens or 
strengthens connections so that when the 
opportunity comes, some act will be fur- 
thered or hindered. In view of the prone- 
ness to permit base thoughts to enter the 
mind, human beings might sometimes fear 
even to think. A more optimistic idea, 
however, is that noble thoughts lead to 
noble acts. Therefore, keep in your mind 
the kind of thoughts that you wish to see 
actualized in your character and the appro- 
priate acts will follow of their own accord. 
But it is with the significance of expres- 
sions in study that we are at present con- 
cerned, and here we find them of supreme 
importance. We ordinarily regard learning 
as a process of taking things into the mind, 


and regard expression as a thing apart 
from acquisition of knowledge. We shall 
find in this discussion, however, that there 
is no such sharp demarcation between 
acquiring knowledge and expressing knowl- 
edge, but that the two are intimately bound 
together, expressions being properly a part 
of wise and economical learning. 

When we survey the modes of expression 
that may be used in study, we find them to 
be of several kinds. Speech is one. This 
is the form of expression for which the 
class-recitation is provided. If you wish to 
grow as a student, utilize the recitation 
period and welcome every chance to recite 
orally, for things about which you recite in 
class are more effectively learned. Talking 
about a subject under all circumstances 
will help you learn. When studying sub- 
jects like political economy, sociology or 
psychology, seize every opportunity to talk 
over the questions involved. Hold fre- 
quent conferences with your instructor; 
voice your difficulties freely, and the very 


effort to state them will help to clarify 
them. It is a good plan for two students in 
the same course to come together and talk 
over the problems; the debates thus stimu- 
lated and the questions aroused by mental 
interaction are very helpful in impressing 
facts more vividly upon the mind. 

Writing is a form of expression and is one 
thing that gives value to note-taking and 
examinations. Its value is further recog- 
nized by the requirements of themes and 
term-papers. These are all mediums by 
which you may develop yourself, and they 
merit your earnest cooperation. 

Another medium of expression that stu- 
dents may profitably employ is drawing. 
This is especially valuable in such subjects 
as geology, physiology and botany. Stu- 
dents in botany are compelled to do much 
drawing of the plant-forms which' they 
study, and this is a wise requirement, for it 
makes them observe more carefully, report 
more faithfully and recall with greater ease. 
You may secure the same advantages by 


employing the graphic method in other 
studies. For example, when reading in a 
geology text-book about the stratification 
of the earth in a certain region, draw the 
parts described and label them according 
to the description. You will be surprised 
to see how clear the description becomes 
and how easily it is later recalled. 

Let us examine the effects of the expres- 
sive movements of speech, writing and the 
like, and see the mechanism by which they 
facilitate the study process. We may de- 
scribe their effects in two ways : neurologic- 
ally and psychologically. As may be ex- 
pected from our preliminary study of the 
nervous system, we see their first effects 
upon the motor pathways leading out to 
the muscles. Each passage of the nerve 
current from brain to muscle leaves traces 
so that the resulting act is performed with 
greater ease upon each repetition. This 
fact has already been emphasized by the 
warning, Guard the avenues of expression. 
Especially is it important at the first per- 


formance of an act, because this determines 
the path of later performances. In such 
studies as piano-playing, vocalizing and 
pronunciation of foreign words, see that 
your first performance is absolutely right, 
then as the expressive movements are re- 
peated, they will be more firmly ingrained 
because of the deepening of the motor 

The next effect of acts of expression is to 
be found in the modifications made in the 
sensory areas of the brain. You will recall 
that every movement of a muscle produces 
nervous currents which go back to the 
brain and register there in the form of kin- 
esthetic sensations. To demonstrate kin- 
esthetic sensations, close your eyes and 
move your index finger up and down. You 
can feel the muscles contracting and the 
tendons moving back and forth, even into 
the back of the hand. These sensations 
ordinarily escape our attention, but they 
occupy a prominent place in the control of 
our actions. For example, when ascending 


familiar stairs in the dark, they notify us 
when we have reached the top. We are still 
further impressed with their importance 
when we are deprived of them ; when we try 
to walk upon a foot or a leg that has gone 
"to sleep"; that is, when the kinesthetic 
nerves are temporarily paralyzed we find it 
difficult to walk. But besides being used to 
control muscular actions, they may be used 
in study, for they may be made the source 
of impressions, and impressions, as we 
learned in the chapter on memory, are a 
prime requisite for learning. Each expres- 
sion becomes, then, through its kinesthetic 
results, the source of new impressions, 
when, for example, you pronounce the 
German word, anwenden, with the English 
word "to employ," in addition to the 
impressions made through the ear, you 
make impressions through the muscles of 
speech (kinesthetic impressions), and 
these kinsesthetic impressions enter into 
the body of your knowledge and later may 
serve as the means by which the word may 


be revived. When you write the word, you 
make kinesthetic impressions which may 
later serve as forms of revival. So the 
movements of expression produce sensory 
material that may serve as tentacles by 
means of which you can later reach back 
into your memory and recall facts. 

We shall now consider another service 
of expressions which, though little regarded, 
nevertheless is of much moment. When we 
make expressive movements, much ner- 
vous energy is generated; much more than 
during passive impression. Energy is sent 
back to the brain over the kinesthetic 
nerve cells, and the greater the extent of 
the movement, the greater is the amount 
of new energy sent to the brain. It pours 
into the brain and diffuses itself especially 
throughout the association areas. Here 
it excites regions which could not be excited 
by a more limited amount of energy. This 
means, in psychical terms, that new ideas 
are being aroused. The obvious inference 
from this fact is that you may, by starting 


movements of expression, actually sum- 
mon to your assistance added powers of 
mind. For example, when you are called 
upon to recite in class, your mind seems to 
be a complete blank — in a state of " dead- 
lock. " You may break this " deadlock" 
and start brain-action by some kind of 
movement. It may be only to clear your 
throat, to ejaculate "well," or to squirm 
about in the seat, but whatever form the 
movement takes, it will usually be effective 
in creating the desired nervous energy, and 
after the inertia is once overcome the men- 
tal stream will flow freely. The uncon- 
scious application of this device is seen 
when a man is called on suddenly to make 
a speech for which he has not prepared. 
He usually starts out by telling a story, 
thus liberating nervous energy to pour 
back into the brain and start thinking 
processes. With increasing vehemence of 
expression, the ideas come more and more 
freely, and the result is a speech which 
surpasses the expectations of the speaker 


himself. The gesticulations of many 
speakers have this same function, being 
frequently of great service in arousing more 
nervous energy, which goes back to the 
brain and arouses more ideas. 

The device of stimulating ideas by ex- 
pressive movements may be utilized in 
theme- or letter-writing. It is generally 
recognized that the difficult thing in such 
writing is to get a start, and the too com- 
mon practice is to sit listlessly gazing into 
space waiting for " inspiration. " This is 
usually a futile procedure. The better way 
is to begin to write anything about the 
topic in hand. What you write may have 
little merit, either of substance or form. 
Nevertheless, if you persist in keeping up the 
activity of writing, making more and more 
movements, you will find that the ideas will 
begin to come in greater profusion until they 
come so fast you can hardly write them down . 

Having tried to picture the neural effect 
of expression, we may now translate them 
into psychological terms, asking what ser- 


vice the expressions render to the conscious 
side of our study. First of all, we note 
that the expressions help to make the acts 
and ideas in study habitual. We find our- 
selves, with each expression, better able to 
perform such acts as the pronunciation of 
foreign words. Second, they furnish new 
impressions through the kinesthetic sense, 
thus being a source of sense-impression. 
Third, they give rise to a greater number 
of ideas and link them up with the idea 
dominant at the moment. There is a 
further psychological effect of expression 
in the clarification of ideas. It is a well- 
attested fact that when we attempt to 
explain a thing to someone else, it becomes 
clearer in our own minds. You can demon- 
strate this for yourself by attempting to 
explain to someone an intricate conception 
such as the nebular hypothesis. The effort 
involved in making the explanation makes 
the fact more vivid to you. The habit of 
thus utilizing your knowledge in conversa- 
tion is an excellent one to acquire. Indeed, 


expression is the only objective test of 
knowledge and we cannot say that we 
really know until we can express our knowl- 
edge. Expression is thus the great clari- 
fication agency and the test of knowledge. 

Before leaving this discussion, it might 
be well to remark upon ona phase of ex- 
pression that is sometimes a source of diffi- 
culty. This is the embarrassment inci- 
dent to some forms of expression, notably 
oral. Many people are deterred from util- 
izing this form of expression because of shy- 
ness and embarrassment in the presence of 
others. If you have this difficulty in such 
excess that it hinders you from free expres- 
sion, resolve at once to overcome it. Begin 
at the very outset of your academic career 
to form habits of disregarding your im- 
pulses to act in frightened manner. Take 
a course in public speaking. The practice 
thus secured will be a great aid in devel- 
oping habits of fearless and free oral 

This discussion has shown that expres- 


sion is a powerful aid in learning, and is a 
most important feature of mental life. Cul- 
tivate your powers of expression, for your 
college education should consist not only in 
the development of habits of impression, 
but also in the development of habits of 
expression. Grasp eagerly every oppor- 
tunity for the development of skill in clear 
and forceful expression. Devote assiduous 
attention to themes and all written work, 
and make serious efforts to speak well. 
Remember you are forming habits that will 
persist throughout your life. Emphasize, 
therefore, at every step, methods of expres- 
sion, for it is this phase of learning in which 
you will find greatest growth. 


In our investigation of the psychology of 
study we have so far directed our attention 
chiefly toward the subjective side of the 
question, seeking to discover the contents of 
mind during study. We shall now take an 
objective view of study, examining not the 
contents of mind nor methods of study, but 
the objective results of study. In doing this, 
we choose certain units of measurement, the 
number of minutes required for learning a 
given amount or the -amount learned in a 
stated period of time. We may do this for 
the learning of any material, whether it be 
Greek verbs or typewriting. All that is 
necessary is to decide upon some method 
by which progress can be noted and ex- 
pressed in numerical units. This, you will 
observe, constitutes a statistical approach 



to the processes of study, such as is em- 
ployed in science, and just as the statistical 
method has been useful in science, so it can 
be of value in education, and by means of 
statistical investigations of learning we 
may hope to discover some of the factors 
operative in good learning. 

Progress in learning is best observable 
when we represent our measurements graph- 
ically, when they take the form of a curve, 
variously called "the curve of efficiency," 
" practice curve," " learning curve." We 
shall take a sample curve for the basis 
of our discussion, showing the progress of a 
beginner in the Russian language for sixty- 
five days (indicated in the figure by hori- 
zontal divisions) . The student studied in- 
dustriously for thirty minutes each day and 
then translated as rapidly as possible for 
fifteen minutes, the number of words trans- 
lated being represented by the vertical 
spaces on the chart. Thus, on the tenth 
day, twenty-five words were translated, on 
the twentieth day, forty-five words. 

























































20 25 30 35 40 -45 50 55 «0 65 TO 

In making an analysis of this typical 
curve, we note immediately an exceeding 
irregularity. At one time there is extraor- 


dinary improvement, but a later measure- 
ment registers pronounced loss. This irreg- 
ularity is very common in learning. Some 
days we do a great amount of work and do 
it well, but perhaps the very next day 
shows marked diminution in our work. 

The second characteristic we note is that 
there is extremely rapid improvement at 
the beginning, the curve slanting up quite 
sharply. This is common in learning, and 
may be accounted for in several ways. In 
the first place, the easiest things come first. 
For example, when you are beginning the 
study of German, you are given mostly 
monosyllabic words to learn. These are 
easily remembered, hence progress is rapid. 
A second reason is that at the beginning 
there are many different respects in which 
progress can be made. For example, the 
beginner in German must learn nouns, 
case endings, declension of adjectives, 
days of the week; in short, a vast number 
of new things all at once. At a later period 
however, the number of new things to be 


learned is much smaller and improvement 
cannot be so rapid. A third reason why 
learning proceeds more rapidly at first is 
that the interest is greater at this time. 
You have doubtless many times experienced 
this fact, and you know that when a thing 
has the interest of novelty you work harder 
upon it. 

If you will examine the learning curve 
closely, you will note that after the initial 
spurt, there is a slowing up. The curve at 
this point appears as a plateau, and it looks 
as if the work stood still or even decreased. 
This period of no progress is regarded as a 
characteristic of the learning curve and is 
a time of great discouragement to the con- 
scientious student, so distressing that we 
may designate it " the plateau of despond. ' ' 
Most people describe it as a time when 
they feel unable to learn more about a 
subject; the mind seems to be sated; new 
ideas cannot be assimilated, and old ones 
seem to be forgotten. The plateau may 
extend for a long or a short time, depend- 


ing upon the nature of the subject-matter 
and the length of time over which the 
learning extends. In the case of profes- 
sional training, it may extend over a year 
or more. In the case of growing children 
in school, it sometimes happens that an 
entire year elapses during which the learn- 
ing of an 'apparently bright student is? 
retarded. In a course of study in high 
school or college, it may come on about the 
third week and extend a month or more. 
Something akin to the plateau may come 
in the course of a day, when we realize 
that our efficiency is greatly diminished 
and we seem, for an hour or more, to make 
no progress. 

Inasmuch as the plateau is such a com- 
mon occurrence in human activity, we 
should analyze it and see what factors 
operate to influence it. It is interesting 
to note that the plateau generally occurs 
just before an abrupt rise in efficiency. 
This is significant, for it may mean that 
the plateau is necessary in learning, espe- 


cially just preceding greater improve- 
ment. At least you may take comfort 
from the fact that in learning it seems to be 
so arranged. Accordingly, when you ex- 
perience the plateau in learning, you may 
take comfort in the thought that it may 
presage a time of improvement. On the 
theory that it is a necessary part of learn- 
ing, it has been regarded as a resting place. 
We are so constituted by nature that we 
cannot run on indefinitely; nature some- 
times must call a halt. Consequently,the 
plateau may be a warning that we cannot 
learn more for the present and that the 
proper remedy is to refrain for a little 
while from further efforts in that line. We 
have possible justification for this inter- 
pretation when we reflect that a vacation 
does us much good, and though we begin 
it feeling stale, we end it feeling much 
fresher and more efficient. 

But to stop work temporarily is not the 
only way to meet a plateau, and fatigue 
or ennui is probably not the sole or most 


compelling explanation. It may be that 
we should not regard the objective results 
as the true measure of learning; perhaps 
learning is going on even though the results 
are not apparent. We discovered some- 
thing in the nature of unconscious learning 
in our discussion of memory, and it may 
be that a period of little objective prog- 
ress marks a period of active unconscious 

Another meaning which the plateau may 
have is simply to mark, places of greater 
difficulty. As already remarked, the early 
period is a stage of comparative ease, but 
as the work becomes more difficult, prog- 
ress is slower. It is also quite likely that 
the plateau may indicate that some of the 
factors operative at the start are operative 
no longer. Thus, although the learning 
was rapid at the beginning because the ma- 
terial learned at that time was easy, the 
plateau may come because the things to be 
learned have become difficult. Or, whereas 

the beginning was attacked with consider- 


able interest, the plateau may mean that 
the interest is dying down, and that less 
effort is being exerted. 

If these theories are the true explanation 
of the plateau, we see that it is not to be 
regarded as a time of reduction in learning, 
to be contemplated with despair. The ap- 
propriate attitude may be one of resigna- 
tion, with the determination to make it as 
slightly disturbing as possible. But though 
the reasons just described may have some- 
thing to do with the production of the 
plateau, as yet we have no evidence that the 
plateau cannot be dispensed with. It is 
practically certain that the plateau is not 
caused entirely by necessity for rest or un- 
conscious learning. It frequently is due, 
we must regretfully admit, to poor early 
preparation. If at the beginning of a pe- 
riod of learning an insecure foundation is 
laid, it cannot be expected to support the 
burden of more difficult subject-matter. 

We have enumerated a number of the 
explanations that have been advanced to 


account for the plateau, and have seen that 
it may have several causes, among which 
are necessity for rest, increased difficulty of 
subject-matter, loss of interest and insuf- 
ficient preparation. In trying to eliminate 
the plateau, our remedy should be adapted 
to the cause. In recognition of the fact 
that learning proceeds irregularly, we see 
that it is rational to expect the amount of 
effort to be exerted throughout a period of 
learning, to vary. It will vary partly with 
the difficulty of subject-matter and partly 
with fluctuations in bodily and mental effi- 
ciency which are bound to occur from day to 
day. Since this irregularity is bound to 
occur, you may well make your effort vary 
from one extreme to the other. At times, 
perhaps your most profitable move may be 
to take a complete vacation. The vacation 
might cover several weeks, a week-end, or 
if the plateau is merely a low period in the 
day's work, then ten minutes may suffice 
for a vacation. As an adjunct to such rest 
periods, some form of recreation should 


usually be planned, for the essential thing 
is to permit the mind to rest from the tire- 
some activity. 

If your plateau represents greater diffi- 
culty of subject-matter and loss of interest, 
your duty is plainly to work harder. In 
exerting more effort, make some changes in 
your methods of study. For example, if 
you have been accustomed to study a cer- 
tain subject by silent reading, begin to read 
your lessons aloud. Change your method 
of taking notes, or change the hour of day 
in which you prepare your lesson. In 
short, try any of the methods described in 
this book, and use your own ingenuity, and 
the change in method may overcome the 

If a plateau is due to our last-mentioned 
cause, insufficient preparation, the remedy 
must be drastic. To make new resolutions 
and to put forth additional effort is not 
enough; you must go back and relay the 
foundation. Make a thorough review of 
the work which you covered slightingly, 


making sure that every step is clear. This 
process was described in an earlier chapter 
as the clarification of ideas and is abso- 
lutely essential in building up a structure 
of knowledge that will stand. Indeed, as 
you take various courses you will find that 
your study will be much improved by peri- 
odical reviews. The benefits cannot all be 
enumerated here, but we may reasonably 
claim that a review will be very likely to 
remove a plateau, and used with the other 
remedies herein suggested, will help you to 
rid yourself of one of the most discouraging 
features of student life. 



Did you ever engage in any exhausting 
physical work for a long period of time? 
If so, you probably remember that as you 
proceeded, you became more and more 
fatigued, finally reaching a point when it 
seemed that you could not endure the 
strain another minute. You had just 
decided to give up, when suddenly the 
fatigue seemed to diminish and new energy 
seemed to come from some source. This 
curious thing, which happens frequently 
in athletic activities, is known as second- 
wind, and is described by those who have 
experienced it as a time of increased power, 
when the work is done with greater ease 
and effectiveness and with a freshness and 
vigor in great contrast to the staleness 
that preceded it. It is as though one 



"tapped a level of new energy/ ' revealing 
hidden stores of unexpected power. And 
it is commonly reported that with persist- 
ence in pushing one's self farther and 
farther, a third and fourth wind may be 
uncovered, each one leading to greater 
heights of achievement. 

This phenomenon occurs not alone on 
the physical plane; it is discernible in 
mental exertion as well. True, we seldom 
experience it because we are mentally lazy 
and have the habit of stopping our work 
at the first signs of fatigue. Did we per- 
sist, however, disregarding fatigue and 
ennui, we should find ourselves tapping 
vast reserves of mental power and accom- 
plishing mental feats of astonishing 

The occasional occurrence of the phe- 
nomenon of second-wind gives ground for 
the statement that we possess more energy 
than we ordinarily use. There are several 
lines of evidence for this statement. One 
is to be found in the energizing effects of 


emotional excitement. Under the impetus 
of anger, a man shows far greater strength 
than he ordinarily uses. Similarly, a 
mother manifests the strength of a tigress 
when her young is endangered. A second 
line of evidence is furnished by the effect 
of stimulants. Alcohol brings to the fore 
surprising reserves of physical and psychic 
energy. Lastly, we have innumerable in- 
stances of accession of strength under the 
stimulus of an idea. Under the domination 
of an all-absorbing idea r one performs feats 
of extraordinary strength, utilizing stores 
of energy otherwise out of reach. We 
have only to read of the heroic achieve- 
ments of little Joan of Arc for an example 
of such manifestation of reserve power. 

When we examine this accession of 
energy we find it to be describable in 
several ways — physiologically, neurologi- 
cally and psychologically. The physio- 
logical effects consist in a heightening of 
the bodily functions in general. The 
muscles become more ready to act, the 


circulation is accelerated, the breathing 
more rapid. Curious things take place in 
various glands throughout the body. One, 
the adrenal gland, has been the object of 
special study and has been shown, upon 
the arousal of these reserves of energy, to 
produce a secretion of the utmost impor- 
tance in providing for sudden emergen- 
cies. This little gland is located above the 
kidney, and is aroused to intense activity 
at times, pouring out into the blood a 
fluid that goes all over the body. Some of 
its effects are to furnish the blood with 
chemicals that act as fuel to the muscles, 
assisting them to contract more vigorously, 
to make the lungs more active in intro- 
ducing oxygen into the system, to make 
the heart more active in distributing the 
blood throughout the body. Such glan- 
dular activity is an important physiological 
condition of these higher levels of energy. 
In neurological terms, the increase in 
energy consists in the flow of more nervous 
energy into the brain, particularly into 


those areas where it is needed for certain 
kinds of controlled thought and action. 
An abundance of nervous energy is very 
advantageous, for, as has been intimated 
in a former chapter, nervous energy is 
diffused and spread over all the pathways 
that are easily permeable to its distribu- 
tion. This results in the use of consider- 
able areas of brain surface, and knits up 
many associations, so that one idea calls 
up many other ideas. This leads us to 
recognize the psychological conditions of 
increased energy, which are, first, the 
presence of more ideas, second, the more 
facile flow of ideas; the whole accompanied 
by a state of marked pleasurableness. 
Pleasure is a notable effect of increased 
energy. When work progresses rapidly 
and satisfactorily, it is accomplished with 
great zest and a feeling almost akin to 
exaltation. These conditions describe to 
some degree the conditions when we are 
doing efficient work. 
Since we are endowed with the energy 


requisite for such efficient work, the obvi- 
ous question is, why do we not more fre- 
quently use it? The answer is to be found 
in the fact that we have formed the habit 
of giving up before we create conditions of 
high efficiency. You will note that the 
conditions require long-continued exertion 
and resolute persistence. This is difficult, 
and we indulgently succumb to the first 
symptoms of fatigue, before we have more 
than scratched the surface of our real 

Because of the prominent place occupied 
by fatigue in thus being responsible for 
our diminished output, we shall briefly 
consider its place in study. Everyone who 
has studied will agree that fatigue is an 
almost invariable attendant of continuous 
mental exertion. We shall lay down the 
proposition at the start, however, that the 
awareness of fatigue is not the same as 
the objective fatigue in the organs of the 
body. Fatigue should be regarded as a 
twofold thing — a state of mind, designated 


its subjective aspect, and a condition of 
various parts of the body, designated its 
objective aspect. The former is observable 
by introspection, the latter by analysis of 
bodily secretions and by measurement of 
the diminution of work, entirely without 
reference to the way the mind regards the 
work. Fatigue subjectively, or fatigue as 
we feel it, is not at all the same as fatigue 
as manifested in the body. If we were to 
make two curves, the one showing the 
advancement of the feeling of fatigue, and 
the other showing the advancement of 
impotence on the part of the bodily proc- 
esses, the two curves would not at all 
coincide. Stated another way, fatigue is 
a complex thing, a product of ideas, feel- 
ings and sensations, and sometimes the 
ideas overbalance the sensations and we 
think we are more tired then we are 
objectively. It is this fact that accounts 
for our too rapid giving up when we are 
engaged in hard work. 

A psychological analysis of the sub- 


jective side of fatigue will make its true 
nature more apparent. Probably the first 
thing we find in the mind when fatigued 
is a large mass of sensations. They are 
referred to various parts of the body, 
mostly the part where muscular activity 
has been most violent and prolonged. Not 
all of the sensations, however, are intense 
enough to be localizable, some being so 
vague that we merely say we are " tired 
all over. " These vague sensations are 
often overlooked; nevertheless, as will be 
shown later, they may be exceedingly 

But sensations are not the only contents 
of the mind at time of fatigue. Feelings 
are present also, usually of a very un- 
pleasant kind. They are related partly to 
the sensations mentioned above, which are 
essentially painful, and they are feelings of 
boredom and ennui. We have yet to exam- 
ine the ideas in mind and their behavior at 
time of fatigue. They come sluggishly, 
associations being made slowly and inaccu- 


rately, and we make many mistakes. But 
constriction of ideas is not the sole effect of 
fatigue. At such a time there are usually 
other ideas in the mind not relevant to the 
fatiguing task of the moment, and exceed- 
ingly distracting. Often they are so insist- 
ent in forcing themselves upon our atten- 
tion -that we throw up the work without 
further effort. It is practically certain that 
much of our fatigue is due, not to real 
weariness and inability to work, but to the 
presence of ideas that appear so attractive 
in contrast with the work in hand that we 
say we are tired of the latter. What we 
really mean is that we would rather do 
something else. These obtruding ideas are 
often introduced into our minds by other 
people who tell us that we have worked long 
enough and ought to come and play, and 
though we may not have felt tired up to 
this point, still the suggestion is so strong 
that we immediately begin to feel tired. 
Various social situations can arouse the 
same suggestion. For example, as the 


clock nears quitting time, we feel that we 
ought to be tired, so we allow ourselves to 
think we are. 

Let us now examine the bodily condi- 
tions to see what fatigue is objectively. 
" Physiologically it has been demonstrated 
that fatigue is accompanied by three sorts 
of changes. First, poisons accumulate in 
the blood and affect the action of the ner- 
vous system, as has been shown by direct 

analysis. Mosso selected two dogs as 

nearly alike as possible. One he kept tied 
all day; the other, he exercised until by 
night it was thoroughly tired. Then he 
transfused the blood of the tired animal 
into the veins of the rested one and pro- 
duced in him all the signs of fatigue that 
were shown by the other. There can be no 
doubt that the waste products of the body 
accumulate in the blood and interfere with 
the action of the nerve cells and muscles. 
It is probable that these accumulations 
come as a result of mental as well as of 
physical work. 


"A second change in fatigue has been 
found in the 'cell body of the neurone. 
Hodge showed that the size of the nucleus 
of the cell in the spinal cord of a bee dimin- 
ished nearly 75 per cent, as a result of the 
day's activity, and that the nucleus became 
much less solid. A third change that has 
been demonstrated as a result of muscular 
work is the accumulation of waste products 
in the muscle tissue. Fatigued muscles 
contain considerable percentages of these 
products. That they are important factors 
in the fatigue process has been shown by 
washing them from a fatigued muscle. As 
a result the muscle gains new capacity for 
work. The experiments are performed on 
the muscles of a frog that have been cut 
from the body and fatigued by electrical 
stimulation. When they will no longer re- 
spond, their sensitivity may be renewed by 
washing them in dilute alcohol or in a weak 
salt solution that will dissolve the products 
of fatigue. It is probable that these prod- 
ucts stimulate the sense-organs in the 


muscles and thus give some of the sensa- 
tions of fatigue. Of these physical effects 
of fatigue, the accumulation of waste prod- 
ucts in the blood and the effects upon the 
nerve cells are probably common both to 
mental and physical fatigue. The effect 
upon the muscles plays a part in mental 
fatigue only so far as all mental work in- 
volves some muscular activity. " 

By this time you must be convinced that 
the subject of fatigue is exceedingly com- 
plicated; that its effects are manifested dif- 
ferently in mind and body. In relieving 
fatigue the first step to be taken is to rest 
properly. Man cannot work incessantly; 
he must rest sometimes, and it is just as 
important to know how to rest efficiently 
as to know how to work efficiently. By 
this is not meant that one should rest as 
soon as fatigue begins to be felt. Quite the 
reverse. Keep on working all the harder if 
you wish the second-wind to appear. Per- 
haps two hours will exhaust your first sup- 
ply of energy and will leave you greatly 


fatigued. Do not give up at this time, how- 
ever. Push yourself farther in order to un- 
cover the second layer of energy. Before 
entering upon this, however, it will be pos- 
sible to secure some advantage by resting 
I for about fifteen minutes. Do not rest 
longer than this, or you may lose the 
momentum already secured and your two 
hours will have gone for naught. If one ? 
indulges in too long a rest, the energy seems 
to run down and more effort is required to 
work it up again than was originally ex- 
pended. It is also important to observe 
the proper mental conditions during rest. 
Do not spend the fifteen minutes in getting 
interested in some other object; for that 
will leave distracting ideas in the mind 
which will persist when you resume work. 
Make the rest a time of physical and men- 
tal relief. Move cramped muscles, rest 
your eyes and let your thoughts idly wan- 
der; then come back to work in ten or fif- 
teen minutes and you will be amazed at the 
refreshed feeling with which you do your 


work and at the accession of new energy 
that will come to you. Keep on at this new 
plane and your work will take on all the 
attributes of the second-wind level of 

Besides planning intelligent rests, you 
may also adjust yourself to fatigue by ar- 
ranging your daily program so as to do your 
hardest work when you are fresh, and your 
easiest when your efficiency is low. In 
other words, you are a human dynamo, and 
should adjust yourself to the different loads 
you carry. When carrying a heavy load, 
employ your best energies ; but when carry- 
ing only a light load, exert a proportionate 
amount of energy. Every student has 
tasks of a routine nature which do not re- 
quire a high degree of energy, such as copy- 
. ing material. Plan to perform such work 
'when your stock of energy is lowest. 

One of the best ways to insure the attain- 
ment of a higher plane of mental efficiency 
is to assume an attitude of interestedness. 
This is an emotional state and we have seen 


that emotion calls forth great energy. 

A final aid in promoting increase of 
energy is that gained through stimulating 
ideas. Other things being equal, the stu- 
dent who is animated by a stimulating idea 
works more diligently and effectively than 
one without. The idea may be a lofty pro- 
fessional ideal; it may be a desire to please 
one's family, a sense of duty, or a wish to 
excel. Whatever it is, an idea may stimu- 
late to extraordinary achievements. Adopt 
some compelling aim if you have none. A 
vocational aim often serves as a powerful 
incentive throughout one's student life. 
An idea may operate for even more tran- 
sient purposes; it may make one oblivious 
to present discomfort to a remarkable 
degree. This is accomplished through the 
aid of suggestion. When suggestions of 
fatigue approach, you may ward them off 
by resolutely suggesting to yourself that 
you are feeling fresh. 

Above all, the will is effective in lifting 
one to higher levels of efficiency. It is 


notorious that a single effort of the will, 
"such as saying 'no' to some habitual temp- 
tation or performing some courageous act, 
will launch a man on a higher level of 
energy for days and weeks, will give him a 
new range of power. 'In the act of uncork- 
ing the whiskey bottle which I had brought 
home to get drunk upon, ' said a man to me, 
'I suddenly found myself running out into 
the garden, where I smashed it on the 
ground. I felt so happy and uplifted after 
this act, that for two months I wasn't 
tempted to touch a drop/" But the re- 
sults of exertions of the will are not usually 
so immediate, and you may accept it as a 
fact that in raising yourself to a higher 
level of energy you cannot do it by a single 
effort. Continuous effort is required until 
the higher levels of energy have formed the 
habit of responding when work is to be 
done. In laying the burden upon Nature's 
mechanism of habit, you see you are again 
face to face with the proposition laid down 
at the beginning of the book — that educa- 


tion consists in the process of forming 
habits of mind. The particular habit most 
important to cultivate in connection with 
the production of second-wind is the habit 
of resisting fatigue. Form the habit of per- 
sisting in spite of apparent obstacles and 
limitations. Though they seem almost m> 
surmountable, they are really only super J 
ficial. Buried deep within you are stores of 
energy that you yourself are unaware of. 
They will assist you in accomplishing feats 
far greater than you think yourself capable 
of. Draw upon these resources and you 
will find yourself gradually living and work- 
ing upon a higher plane of efficiency, im- 
proving the quality of your work, increas- 
ing the quantity of your work and enhanc- 
ing your enjoyment in work. 


One of the most vexatious periods of 
student life is examination time. This is 
almost universally a time of great distress, 
giving rise in extreme cases to conditions of 
nervous collapse. The reason for this is not 
far to seek, for upon the results of examina- 
tions frequently depend momentous con- 
sequences, such as valuable appointments, 
diplomas, degrees and other important 
events in the life of a student. In view of 
the importance of examinations, then, it is 
natural that they be regarded with consid- 
erable fear and trepidation, and it is impor- 
tant that we devise what rules we can for 
meeting their exactious demands with great- 
est ease and effectiveness. 

Examinations serve several purposes, the 
foremost of which is to inform the examiner 



regarding the amount of knowledge pos- 
sessed by the student. In discovering this, 
two methods may be employed; first, to 
test whether or not the student knows cer- 
tain things, plainly a reproductive exercise; 
second, to see how well the student can 
apply his knowledge. But this is not the 
only function of an examination. It also 
shows the student how much he knows or 
does not know. Again the examination 
often serves as an incentive to harder work 
on the part of the student, for if one knows 
there will be an examination in a subject, 
one usually studies with greater zeal than 
when an examination is not expected. 
Lastly, an examination may help the stu- 
dent to link up facts in new ways, and to see 
them in new relationships. In this aspect, 
you readily see that examinations consti- 
tute a valuable device in learning. 

But students are not very patient in 
philosophizing about the purpose of exam- 
inations, declaring that if examinations are 
a necessary part of the educational process, 


they wish some advice that will enable 
them to pass examinations easily and with 
credit to themselves. So we shall turn our 
attention to the practical problems of pass- 
ing examinations. 

Our first duty in giving advice is to call 
attention to the necessity for faithful work 
throughout the course of study. Some 
students seem to think that they can slight 
their work throughout a course, and by 
vigorous cramming at the end make up 
for slighted work and pass the examination. 
This is an extremely dangerous attitude 
to take. It might work with certain kinds 
of subject-matter, a certain type of stu- 
dent-mind and a certain kind of examiner, 
but as a general practice it is a most 
treacherous method of passing a course. 
The greatest objection from a psychological 
standpoint is that we have reason to 
believe that learning thus concentrated is 
not so permanently effective as that ex- 
tended over a long period of time. For 
instance, a German course extending over 


a year has much to commend it over a 
course with the same number of recitation- 
hours crowded into two months. So we 
may lay it down as a rule that feverish 
exertions for a few hours at the end of a 
course cannot replace conscientious daily 
work throughout the course. 

Against cramming it may further be 
urged that the hasty impression of a mass 
of new material is not likely to be lasting; 
particularly is this true when the cramming 
is made specifically for a certain exami- 
nation. As we saw in the chapter on 
memory, the intention to remember affects 
the firmness of retention, and if the cram- 
ming is done merely with reference to the 
examination, the facts learned may be for- 
gotten and never be available for future 
use. So we may lay it down as a rule 
that feverish exertions at the end of a 
course cannot replace conscientious work 
throughout the course. 

In spite of these objections, however, 
we must admit that cramming has some 


value, if it does not take the form of new 
acquisition of facts, but consists more of a 
manipulation of facts already learned. As 
a method of review, it has an eminently 
proper place and may well be regarded as 
indispensable. Some students, it is true, 
assert that they derive little benefit from 
a pre-examination review, but one is in- 
clined to question their methods. We 
have already found that learning is charac- 
teristically aided by reviews, and that 
recall is facilitated by recency of impres- 
sion. Reviewing just before examination 
serves the memory by providing repetition 
and recency, which, as we learned in the 
chapter on memory, are conditions for 
favorable impression. 

A further value of cramming is that by 
means of such a summarizing review one is 
able to see facts in a greater number of 
relations than before. It too often hap- 
pens that when facts are taken up in a 
course they come in a more or less detached 
form, but at the conclusion of the course 


a review will show the facts in perspective 
and will disclose many new relations be- 
tween them. 

Another advantage of cramming is that 
at such a time, one usually works at a high 
plane of efficiency; the task of reviewing 
in a few hours the work of an entire course 
is so huge that the attention is closely 
concentrated, impressions are made viv- 
idly, and the entire mentality is tuned up 
so that facts are well impressed, coordi- 
nated and retained. These advantages are 
not all present in the more leisurely learn- 
ing of a course, so we see that cramming 
may be regarded as a useful device in 

We must not forget that many of the 
advantages secured by cramming are de- 
pendent upon the methods pursued. There 
are good methods and poor methods of 
cramming. One of the most reprehen- 
sible of the latter is to get into a flurry and 
scramble madly through a mass of facts 
without regard to their relation to each 


other. This method is characterized by 
breathless haste and an anxious fear lest 
something be missed or forgotten. Per- 
haps its most serious evil is its formlessness 
and lack of plan. In other words the facts 
should not be seized upon singly but should 
be regarded in the light of their different 
relations with each other. Suppose, for 
example, you are reviewing for an exami- 
nation in mediaeval history. The impor- 
tant events may be studied according to 
countries, studying one country at a time, 
but that is not sufficient; the events 
occurring during one period in one country 
should be correlated with those occurring 
in another country at the same time. 
Likewise the movements in the field of 
science and discovery should be correlated 
with movements in the fields of literature, 
religion and political control. Tabulate 
the events in chronological order and com- 
pare the different series of events with each 
other. In this way the facts will be seen 
in new relations and will be more firmly 


impressed so that you can use them in 
answering a great variety of questions. 

Having made preparation of the sub- 
ject-matter of the examination, the next 
step is to prepare yourself physically for 
the trying ordeal, for it is well known that 
the mind acts more ably under physically 
healthful conditions. Go to the exami- 
nation-room with your body rested after 
a good night's sleep. Eat sparingly before 
the examination, for mental processes are 
likely to be clogged if too heavy food is 

Having reached the examination-room, 
there are a number of considerations that 
are requisite for success. Some of the 
advice here given may seem to be super- 
fluous but if you had ever corrected 
examination papers you would see the 
need of it all. Let your first step consist 
of a preliminary survey of the examination 
questions; read them all over slowly and 
thoughtfully in order to discover the 
extent of the task set before you. A strik- 


ing thing is accomplished by this prelimi- 
nary reading of the questions. It seems 
as though during the examination period 
the knowledge relating to the different 
questions assembles itself, and while you 
are focusing your attention upon the 
answer to one question, the answers to 
the other questions are formulating them- 
selves in your mind. It is a semi-conscious 
operation, akin to the " unconscious learn- 
ing" discussed in the chapter on memory. 
In order to take advantage of it, it is 
necessary to have the questions in mind 
as soon as possible; then it will be found 
that relevant associations will form and 
will come to the surface when you reach 
the particular questions. 

During the examination when some of 
these associations come into consciousness 
ahead of time, it is often wise to digress 
from the question in hand long enough to 
jot them down. By all means preserve 
them, for if you do not write them down 
they may leave you and be lost. Some- 


times very brilliant ideas come in flashes, 
and inasmuch as they are so fleeting, it is 
wise to grasp them and fix them while 
they are fresh. 

In writing the examination, be sure you 
read every question carefully. Each ques- 
tion has a definite point; look for it, and 
do not start answering until you are sure 
you have found it. Discover the implica- 
tions of each question; canvass its possible 
interpretations, and if it is at all ambiguous 
seek light from the instructor if he is 
willing to make any further comment. 

It is well to have scratch paper handy 
and make outlines for your answers to 
long questions. It is a good plan, also, 
when dealing with long questions, to 
watch the time carefully, for there is 
danger that you will spend too much time 
upon some question to the detriment of 
others equally important, though shorter. 

One error which students often commit 
in taking examinations is to waste time in 
dreaming. As they come upon a difficult 


question they sit back and wait for the 
answer to come to them. This is the 
wrong plan. The secret of freedom of ideas 
lies in activity. Therefore, at such times, 
keep active, so that the associative proc- 
esses will operate freely. Stimulate brain 
activity by the method suggested in 
Chapter VIII, namely, by means of mus- 
cular activity. Instead of idly waiting 
for flashes of inspiration, begin to write. 
You may not be able to write directly upon 
the point at issue, but you can write some- 
thing about it, and as you begin to explore 
and to express your meagre fund of knowl- 
edge, one idea will call up another and soon 
the correct answer will appear. 

After you have prepared yourself to the 
extent of your ability, you should maintain 
toward the examination an attitude of 
confidence. Believe firmly that you will 
pass the examination. Make strong sug- 
gestions to yourself, affirming positively 
that you have the requisite amount of 

information and the ability to express it 


coherently and forcefully. Fortified by 
the consciousness of faithful application 
throughout the work of a course, rein- 
forced by a thorough, well-planned review, 
and with a firm conviction in the strength 
of your own powers, you may approach 
your examinations with comparative ease 
and with good chances of passing them 



It is a truism to say that mental ability 
is affected by bodily conditions. A com- 
mon complaint of students is that they 
cannot study because of a headache, or 
they fail in class because of loss of sleep. 
So patent is the interrelation between 
bodily condition and study that we can- 
not consider our discussion of study prob- 
lems complete without recognition of the 
topic. We shall group our discussions 
about three of the most important physi- 
cal activities, eating, sleeping and exer- 
cising. These make up the greater part of 
our daily activities and if they are properly 
regulated our study is likely to be effective. 
Eating. — It is generally agreed that the 
main function of eating is to repair the 
tissues of the body. Other effects are 



present, such as pleasure and sociability, 
but its chief benefit is reparative, so we 
may well regard the subject from a strictly 
utilitarian standpoint and inquire how we 
may produce the highest efficiency from 
our eating. Some of the important ques- 
tions about eating are, how much to eat, 
what kind of food to eat, when to eat, what 
are the most favorable conditions for 

The quantity of food to be taken varies 
with the demands of the individual appe- 
tite and the individual powers of absorp- 
tion. In general, one who is engaged in 
physical labor needs more, because of 
increased appetite and increased waste of 
tissues. So a farm-hand needs more food 
than a college student, whose work is mostly 
indoors and sedentary. Much has been 
said recently about the ills of overeating. 
One of the most enthusiastic defenders of 
a decreased diet is Mr. Horace Fletcher, 
who, by the practice of protracted mastica- 
tion, " contrives to satisfy the appetite 


while taking an exceptionally small amount 
of food. Salivary digestion is favored and 
the mechanical subdivision of the food is 
carried to an extreme point. Remarkably 
complete digestion and absorption follow. 
By faithfully pursuing this system Mr. 
Fletcher has vastly bettered his general 
health, and is a rare example of muscular 
and mental power for a man above sixty 
years of age. He is a vigorous pedestrian 
and mountain-climber and holds surpris- 
ing records for endurance tests in the 
gymnasium. , 

"The chief gain observed in his case, as 
in others which are more or less parallel, 
is the acquiring of immunity to fatigue, 
•both muscular and central. It is not 
claimed that the sparing diet confers great 
strength for momentary efforts — 'explo- 
sive strength/ as the term goes — but that 
moderate muscular contractions may be 
repeated many times with far less discom- 
fort than before. The inference appears 
to be that the subject who eats more than 


is best has in his circulation and his tissues 
by-products which act like the muscular 
waste which is normally responsible for 
fatigue. According to this conception he 
is never really fresh for his task, but is 
obliged to start with a handicap. When 
he reduces his diet the cells and fluids of 
his body free themselves of these by-prod- 
ucts and he realizes a capacity quite 
unguessed in the past. 

"The same assumption explains the 
fact mentioned by Mr. Fletcher, that the 
hours of sleep can be reduced decidedly 
when the diet is cut down. It would seem 
as though a part of our sleep might often 
be due to avoidable auto-intoxication. If 
one can shorten his nightly sleep without 
feeling the worse for it this is an important 

But the amount of food is probably not 
so important as the kind. Foods contain- 
ing much starch, as potatoes and rice, may 
ordinarily be taken in greater quantities 
than foods containing much protein, such 


as meats and nuts. So our problem is not 
so much concerned with quantity as with 
the choice of kinds of food. Probably the 
most favorable distribution of foods for 
students is a predominance of fruits, coarse 
cereals, starch and sugar and less promi- 
nence to meats. Do not begin the day's 
study on a breakfast of cakes. They are a 
heavy tax upon the digestive powers and 
their nutritive value is low. The mid-day 
meal is also a crucial factor in determining 
the efficiency of afternoon study, and 
many students almost completely incapac- 
itate themselves for afternoon work by a 
too-heavy noon meal. Frequently an 
afternoon course is rendered quite value- 
less because the student drowses through 
the lecture soddened by a heavy lunch. 
One way of overcoming this difficulty is 
by dispensing with the mid-day meal; 
another way is to drink a small amount of 
coffee, which frequently keeps people 
awake; but these devices are not to be 
universally recommended. 


The heavy meal of a student may well 
come at evening. It should consist of a 
varied assortment of foods with some 
liquids, preferably clear soup, milk and 
water. Meat also forms a substantial 
part of this meal, though ordinarily it 
should not be taken more than once a day. 
Much is heard nowadays about the dangers 
of excessive meat-eating and the objections 
are well-founded in the case of brain- 
workers. The undesirable effects are "an 
unprofitable spurring of the metabolism — 
more particularly objectionable in warm 
weather — and the menace of auto-intoxi- 
cation/ ' Too much protein, found in 
meat, lays a burden upon the liver and 
kidneys and when the burden is too great, 
wastes, which cannot be taken care of, 
gather and poison the blood, giving rise to 
that feeling of being " tired all over" which 
is so inimical to mental and physical exer- 
tion. When meat is eaten, care should be 
taken to choose right kinds. " Some kinds 
of meat are well known to occasion indi- 


gestion. Pork and veal are particularly 
feared. While we may not know the 
reason why these foods so often disagree 
with people, it seems probable that texture 
is an important consideration. In both 
these meats the fibre is fine, and fat is 
intimately mingled with the lean. A close 
blending of fat with nitrogenous matter 
appears to give a fabric which is hard to 
digest. The same principle is illustrated 
by fat-soaked fried foods. Under the 
cover of the fat, thorough-going bacterial 
decomposition of the proteins may be 
accomplished with the final release of 
highly poisonous products. Attacks of 
acute indigestion resulting from this cause 
are much like the so-called ptomaine 

Much of the benefit of meat may be 
secured from other foods. Fat, for exam- 
ple, may be obtained from milk and butter 
freed from the objectionable qualities of 
the meat-fibre. In this connection it is 
important to call attention to the use of 


fried fat. Avoid fat that is mixed with 
starch particles in such foods as fried 
potatoes and pie-crust. 

The conditions during meals should 
always be as pleasant as possible. This 
refers both to physical surroundings and 
mental condition. "The processes occur- 
ring in the alimentary canal are greatly 
subject to influences radiating from thp 
brain. It is especially striking that both 
the movements of the stomach and the 
secretion of the gastric juice may be 
inhibited as a result of disturbing circum- 
stances. Intestinal movements may be 
modified in similar fashion. " 

"Cannon has collected various instances 
of the suspension of digestion in conse- 
quence of disagreeable experiences, and 
it would be easy for almost anyone to add 
to his list. He tells us r for example, of 
the case of a woman whose stomach was 
emptied under the direction of a specialist 
in order to ascertain the degree of digestion 
undergone by a prescribed breakfast. The 


dinner of the night before was recovered 
and was found almost unaltered. Inquiry 
led to the fact that the woman had passed 
a night of intense agitation as the result 
of misconduct on the part of her husband. 
People who are seasick some hours after a 
meal vomit undigested food. Apprehen- 
sion of being sick has probably inhibited 
the gastric activities. 

"Just as a single occasion of painful 
emotion may lead to a passing digestive 
disturbance, so continued mental depres- 
sion, worry, or grief may permanently 
impair the working of the (alimentary) 
tract and undermine the vigor and capacity 
of the sufferer. Homesickness is not to 
be regarded lightly as a cause of mal- 
nutrition. Companionship is a powerful 
promoter of assimilation. The attractive 
serving of food, a pleasant room, and good 
ventilation are of high importance. The 
lack of these, so commonly faced by the 
lonely student or the young man making a 
start in a strange city, may be to some 


extent counteracted by the cultivation of 
optimism and the mental discipline which 
makes it possible to detach one's self from 
sordid surroundings/ ' 

Almost as important as eating is drink- 
ing, for liquids constitute the " largest 
item in the income" of the body. Free 
drinking is recommended by physiologists, 
the beneficial results being, "the avoid- 
ance of constipation, and the promotion 
of the elimination of dissolved waste by 
the kidneys and possibly the liver." In 
regard to the use of water with meals, a 
point upon which emphatic cautions were 
formerly offered, recent experiments have 
failed to show any bad effects from this, 
and the advice is now given to drink "all 
the water that one chooses with meals." 
Caution should be observed, however, 
about introducing hot and cold liquids 
into the stomach in quick succession. 

Other liquids have been much discussed 
by dietitians, especially tea and coffee. 
"These beverages owe what limited food 


value they have to the cream and sugar 
usually mixed with them. They give 
pleasure by their aroma, but they are given 
a peculiar position among articles of diet 
by the presence in them of the compound 
caffein, which is distinctly a drug. It is 
a stimulant to the heart, the kidneys, and 
the central nervous system." 

"Individual susceptibility to the action 
of caffein varies greatly. Where one per- 
son notices little or no reaction after a cup 
of coffee, another is exhilarated to a 
marked degree and hours later may find 
himself lying sleepless with tense or trem- 
bling muscles, a dry, burning skin, and a 
mind feverishly active. Often it is found 
that a more protracted disturbance follows 
the taking of coffee with cream than is 
caused by black coffee. 

"It is too much to claim that the use of 
tea and coffee is altogether to be con- 
demned. Many people, nevertheless, are 
better without them. For all who find 
themselves strongly stimulated it is the 


part of wisdom to limit the enjoyment of 
these decoctions to real emergencies when 
uncommon demands are made upon the 
endurance and when for a time hygienic 
considerations have to be ignored. If 
young people will postpone the formation 
of the habit they will have one more re- 
source when the pressure of mature life 
becomes severe." 

Before concluding this discussion a word 
might be added concerning the relation be- 
tween fasting and mental activity. Pro- 
longed abstinence from food frequently re- 
sults in highly sharpened intellectual pow- 
ers. Numerous examples of this are found 
in the literature of history and biography; 
many actors, speakers and singers habitu- 
ally fast before public performances. There 
are some disadvantages to fasting, espe- 
cially loss of weight and weakness, but when 
done under the direction of a physician, 
fasting has been known to produce very 
beneficial effects. It is mentioned here be- 
cause it has such marked effects in speed- 


ing up the mental processes and clearing 
the mind; and the well-nourished student 
may find the practice a source of mental 
strength during times of stress such as 

Sleep. — " About one-third of an average 
human life is passed in the familiar and yet 
mysterious state which we call sleep. From 
one point of view this seems a large inroad 
upon the period in which our consciousness 
has its exercise; a subtraction of twenty- 
five years from the life of one who lives to 
be seventy-five. Yet we know that the 
efficienc}' and comfort of the individual 
demand the surrender of all this precious 
time. It has often been said that sleep is a 
more imperative necessity than food, and 
the claim seems to be well founded. " It is 
quite likely that some students indulge in 
too much sleep. This may sometimes be 
due to laziness, but frequently it is due 
to actual intoxication, from an excess 
of food which results in the presence of 
poisonous " narcotizing substances ab- 


sorbed from the burdened intestine ". This 
theory is rendered tenable by the fact that 
when the diet is reduced the hours of sleep 
may be reduced. If one is in good health, 
it seems right to expect that one should be 
able to arise gladly and briskly upon awak- 
ing. By all means do not indulge yourself 
in long periods of lying in bed after a good 
night's rest. 

If we examine the physical and physio- 
logical conditions of sleep we shall better 
understand its hygiene. Sleep is a state in 
which the tissues of the body which have 
been used up may be restored. Of course 
some restoration of broken-down tissue 
takes place as soon as it begins to wear out, 
but so long as the body keeps working, the 
one process can never quite compensate 
for the other, so there must be a periodic 
cessation of activity so that the energies of 
the body may be devoted to restoration. 
Viewing sleep as a time when broken-down 
bodily cells are restored, we see that we tax 
the energies of the body less if we go to 


sleep each day before the cells are entirely 
depleted. That is the significance of the 
old teaching that sleep before midnight is 
more efficacious than sleep after midnight. 
It is not that there is any mystic virtue in 
the hours before twelve, but that in the 
early part of the evening the cells are not 
so nearly exhausted as they are later in the 
evening, and it is much easier to repair 
them in the partially exhausted stage than 
it is in the completely exhausted stage. 
For this reason, a mid-day nap is often effec- 
tive, or a short nap after the evening din- 
ner. By thus catching the cells at an early 
stage of their exhaustion, they can be re- 
stored with comparative ease, and more 
energy will be available for use during 
the remainder of the working hours. 

A problem that may occasionally trouble 
a student is sleeplessness and we may prop- 
erly consider here some of the ways of 
avoiding it. One prime cause of sleepless- 
ness is external disturbance. The disturb- 
ance may be visual. Although it is ordi- 



narily thought that if the eyes are closed, no 
visual disturbances can be sensed, neverthe- 
less, as a matter of fact the eye-lids are not 
wholly opaque. Sight may be obtained 
through them, as you may prove by closing 
your eyes and moving your fingers before 
them. The lids transmit light to the retina 
and it is quite likely that you are frequently 
awakened by a beam of light falling upon 
your closed eye-lids. For this reason, one 
who is inclined to be wakeful should shut 
out from the bed-room all avenues whereby 
light may enter as a distraction. 

The temperature sense is also a source of 
distraction in sleep, and it is a common 
experience to be awakened by extreme cold. 
The ears, too, may be the source of disturb- 
ance in sleep; for even though we are asleep, 
the tympanic membrane is always exposed 
to vibrations of air. In fact, stimuli are 
continually playing upon the sense-organs 
and are arousing nervous currents which 
try to break over the boundaries of sleep 
and impress themselves upon the brain. 


For this reason, one who wishes to have 
untroubled sleep should remove all possible 

But apart from external distractions, 
wakefulness may still be caused by distrac- 
tions from within. Troublesome ideas may 
be present and persist in keeping one awake. 
This means that brain activity has been 
started and needs suppression. Various 
devices have been suggested. One is to eat 
something very light, just enough to draw 
the surplus blood, which excites the brain, 
away from the brain to the digestive tract. 
This advice should be taken with caution, 
however, for eating just before retiring may 
use up in digestion much of the energy 
needed in repairing the body, and may 
leave one greatly fatigued in the morning. 

One way to relieve the mind of mental 
distractions is to fill it with non-worrisome, 
restful thoughts. Read something light, a 
restful essay or a non-exciting story, or 
poetry. Another device is to bathe the 
head in cold water so as to relieve conges- 


tion of blood in the brain. A tepid or warm 
bath is said to have a similar effect. 

Dreams constitute one source of annoy- 
ance to many, and while they are not neces- 
sarily to be avoided, still they may disturb 
the night's rest. We may avoid them in 
some measure by creating conditions free 
from sensory distractions, for many of our 
dreams are direct reflections of sensations 
we are experiencing at the moment. A 
dream with an arctic setting may be the 
result of becoming uncovered on a cold 
night. To use an illustration from Ellis: 
u A man dreams that he enlists in the army, 
goes to the front, and is shot. He is awak- 
ened by the slamming of a door. It seems 
probable that the enlistment and the march 
to the field are theories to account for the 
report which really caused the whole train 
of thought, though it seemed to be its latest 
item." Such dreams may be partially 
eliminated by care in arranging conditions 
so that there will be few distractions. 
Especially should they be guarded against 


in the later hours of the sleep, for we do not 
sleep so soundly after the first two hours as 
we do before, and stimuli can more easily 
impress themselves and affect the brain. 

Before leaving the subject of sleep, we 
should note the benefit to be derived from 
regularity in sleep. All Nature seems to 
move rhythmically and sleep is no excep- 
tion. Insomnia may be treated by means of 
habituating one's self to get sleepy at a cer- 
tain time, and there is no question that 
the rising process may be made easier if 
one forms the habit of arising at the same 
time every morning. To rhythmize this 
important function is a long step towards 
the efficient life. 

Exercise. — Brain workers do not or- 
dinarily get all the exercise they should. 
Particularly is this true of some conscien- 
tious students who feel they must not take 
any time from their study. But this de- 
notes a false conception of mental action. 
The human organism needs exercise. Man 
is not a disembodied spirit; he must pay 


attention to the claims of the body. In- 
deed it will be found that time spent in 
exercise will result in a higher grade of 
mental work. This is recognized by col- 
leges and universities by the requirement 
of gymnasium work, and the opportunity 
should be welcomed by the student. In- 
asmuch as institutions generally give in- 
struction in this subject, we need not go 
specifically into the matter of exercises. 
Perhaps the only caution that need be urged 
is that against the excessive participation 
in such exhausting games as foot-ball. It 
is seriously to be questioned whether the 
strenuous grilling that a foot-ball player 
must undergo does not actually impair his 
ability to concentrate upon his studies. 

If you undertake a course of exercise, 
by all means have it regular. Little is 
gained by sporadic exercising. Adopt the 
principle of regularity and rhythmize this 
important phase of bodily activity as well 
as all other phases. 

In concluding our discussion of physical 


hygiene for the student, we cannot stress 
too much the value of relaxation. The 
life of a student is a trying one. It exer- 
cises chiefly the higher brain centres and 
keeps the organism keyed up to a high 
pitch. These centres become fatigued 
easily and ought to be rested occasion- 
ally. Therefore, the student should relax 
at intervals, and engage in something 
remote from study. To forget books for 
an entire week-end is often wisdom; to 
have a hobby or an avocation is also wise. 
A student must not forget that he is 
something more than an intellectual being. 
He is a physical organism and a social being, 
and the well-rounded life demands that all 
phases receive expression. We grant that 
it is wrong to exalt the physical and stunt 
the mental, but it is also wrong to develop 
the intellectual and neglect the physical. 
We must recognize with Browning that, 
all good things 
Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, 
than flesh helps soul. 


Adams: Making the Most of One's Mind. 
Angell: Psychology. 
Colvin : The Learning Process. 
Dewey: How We Think. 
Herrick: Introduction to Neurology. 
James: Psychology. 
James: Energies of Men. 
Judd: Psychology of High-school Subjects. 
Pillsbury: Essentials of Psychology. 
Seward: Note-taking. 
Stiles : Nutritional Physiology. 
Stiles : The Nervous System and its Conserva- 
Swift: Mind in the Making. Chapter VI. 
Thorndike : Elements of Psychology. 
Titchener : A Text-book of Psychology. 
Watt: Economy and Training of Memory.